Ventura County's Support-Local Program

Speaking of “Sustainable…”

Why our freewheeling use of the term may itself be unsustainable.

image courtesy sustainabilityninja.com

Do you need help making an idea sound more complex and thought-out than it actually is? Would you like to find a way to capitalize on the whole Green Movement thing? If the answer to either query is “yes,” the task is easily accomplished: simply add the word “sustainable” to the given concept in question. For example, that marketing plan that’s been in the pipeline for ages and remains steadfastly dull? Try revising the title from “Marketing Plan,” to “Sustainable Marketing Plan.” Likewise, that business operations strategy; call it “Sustainable Operations Strategy,” and watch all the heads bob in approval.

If that sounds contrived and disingenuous, that’s because it is.

Yet it’s exactly what companies and people are doing every day in order to appear more socially aware and environmentally conscious. The term “sustainability” has by now been so over-used that it’s lost much of its meaning and true value. People throw the term around as commonly and carelessly as they declare their “love,” using what should be the most sublime to brand what’s among the most mundane: “I love coffee,” “I love the Lakers,” “I love bubble gum,” “I love my daughter,” “I love the beach.” In such a hash of mismatched and mis-applied context, sooner or later it becomes synonymous with everything, and thus evocative of nothing. As a result, we tend to lose sight of its primary, and most important use.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the basics.

Sustainability is not a term that simply describes a single action like recycling efforts and/or turning off the lights when we leave a room (although that may be part of it). Sustainability is a much deeper concept than just modifying behavior. It requires us to become visionaries — to consider not only our actions today, but also their ramifications for tomorrow. “Sustainable” means to act  — whether in work, play, or life – in a way that allows us to fulfill today’s needs without compromising those of future generations. In other words, it’s living this life in a manner that considers the lives to come.

What does it mean to “consider the lives to come?” It means measuring our lifestyle in the context of the full impact of our decisions. An example of this would be finding out what process, procedure, and labor conditions you’re “buying” into when you purchase a t-shirt from company “X” or food from farm “y.” It’s important to remember that we vote with our dollar. Every time we purchase an item, we are essentially voting for not only for that item, but also the methods involved in its creation.  Sometimes those methods are so thoughtless that they destroying the quality of life for us, as well as our children and grandchildren. Therefore, it becomes ever more essential that we take the time to learn about the products we’re buying. How and what we consume will play an increasingly large role in our ability to sustain this lifestyle, and ultimately, this life. For those who would like to learn more about how to integrate sustainable practice into their lifestyle, organizations like the Sierra Club offer excellent resources. Log on to http://www.sierraclub.org/sustainable_consumption/tilford.asp

If living a more sustainable life sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is… at first. It’s takes time, effort, and intentionality in order to reprogram how we think and consume. However, after a short time, most committed, conscientious citizens find deep satisfaction in the realization that individuals really can make the world a better place one decision at a time.

We don’t have to worry about being perfect; we just need to strive to do what we can with what we have.

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One Comment

  1. I agree, Joey. Do you think we (Ventura) could ever become an “eco-city” among powerhouses such as Santa Barbara or Los Angeles?

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