"Do unto future generations as you would have them do unto you."

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability has gained some prominence in the last several years, but it is not always clear what the scope of the term encompasses.

The most popular definition can be traced to a 1987 UN conference report, released by the Brundtland Commission. Called Our Common Future, it defines sustainable developments as those that "meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." (WECD, 1987)

Robert Gillman, editor of In Context magazine, extends this goal oriented definition by stating "sustainability refers to a very old and simple concept [The Golden Rule] - do unto future generations as you would have them do unto you."

These well established definitions set an ideal premise, but do not clarify specific human and environmental parameters for modeling and measuring sustainable developments. The following definitions are more specific:
  • "Sustainable means using methods, systems, and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycle." (Rosenbaum, 1993)

  • Sustainability "identifies a concept and attitude in development that looks at a site's natural land, water, and energy resources as integral aspects of the development." (Vieira, 1993)

  • "Sustainability integrates natural systems with human patterns and celebrates continuity, uniqueness and placemaking." (Early, 1993)

Sustainability in the Classroom

In order to meet the goals of sustainability initiatives for future generations, it is imperative we educate today's youth, so they are ready and willing to meet the challenges they will face. The World Summit definition of sustainability includes Education for a Sustainable Society, which enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions [...] that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future. 

Rather than teaching sustainability as a separate concept or lesson, sustainability can and should be integrated into all aspects of the curriculum, so that students understand it is not a niche concept, but something that can be applied to many disciplines, careers, and aspects of daily living.

Sustainability in the Future

Despite difficult economic times and a tough job market, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center reported significant growth of clean energy jobs across the state between July 2010 and July 2011, with growth expected to increase 15.2% between July 2011 and July 2012.

Read the report here.

In October 2011, the American Council for Energy Efficiency ranked Massachusetts #1 on its State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, overtaking California for the first time.

 Read the full report here.

Sustainability Resources

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