Sustainability often means different things to different people. Many think of recycling when asked about sustainability, while others think of solar panels or growing your own organic food. What is sustainability, really?
The United Nations first defined the word sustainability in 1987 as the ability to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In essence, sustainability is about living happily now without sacrificing the ability of future generations of people to do the same.
Sustainable communities work within the balance of nature. They use resources that can be regenerated. These communities make no harmful waste and either reuse materials or find ways to safely return them back into the natural environment. Sustainable communities make plans and decisions that balance the three parts of the triple bottom line: economic prosperity, environmental quality, and human quality of life.
Sustainability isn’t just about the planet, it’s about people. Our health can be improved by having cleaner air and water, eating local produce, and getting out to walk or bike more. Our economy can benefit by reducing the amount of money each person spends on energy, water, and waste. This money can instead be used at local businesses, further supporting our community’s economy. Sustainable communities are stronger communities.
A resilient community is one that can face a challenge and still retain its essential function. “Sustainable” and “resilient” are qualities of a community that complement each another. While sustainability focuses on having a brighter future, resiliency is all about adapting to the different stressors we face now. Whether it’s a natural disaster, sea-level rise or a drastic change in economy, a resilient community is one that can bounce back from a difficult situation and carry on.