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Sustainability: more than just recycling

Posted: 12:23PM April 12th, 2016 | Comments

By Margot Cumming

When I started at Sustain Dane last fall, I thought that working for a sustainability non-profit would be thinking about how to get people to reuse plastic bags and to recycle cardboard; I thought that sustainability was limited to a small consumer footprint and a respect for the environment. This turned out to be hardly the tip of the iceberg.

According to Sustain Dane, sustainability has three parts (I’m sure many of you know this already): a strong economy, a just society and a healthy planet. So I got the “healthy planet” part right, but the other two aspects of sustainability were new to me.

A strong economy. A concept that implies a steady response to the ever changing climate of the world’s free markets. A very interesting concept for a sustainability organization to be targeting. But the more you think about it, the more a steady, unchanging background economy is necessary to build upon sustainable living. People need to know they can rely on the economy when they start various ventures and take risks. With this trust, they can fill niches in their local community with businesses and services. This is a sustainability that brings in a local investment to ensure that money is used in a way to sustain a community that is valued by their citizens. It makes sense: a sustainable economy means money stays where it is invested.


A just society. Another interesting concept for a sustainability non-profit to focus on. A “just” society; just, an adjective, meaning behaving according to what is morally right and fair. Being a sustainable community, in this respect, implies a structured living group based on respect and equality. Having a sustainable community allows people to trust their neighbors and to further feel an investment value in their fellow citizens. Having this connection with the surroundings and fellow citizens fosters a sustainable mindset that keeps people interested and focused on their community.     


Having a strong economy and a just society allows people to then turn their interest towards the environment and a healthy planet. All three of these concepts go hand-in-hand to foster sustainability in many aspects and on multiple levels, a concept that Sustain Dane has captured perfectly.


As we move beyond thinking in regards to sustainable consumption, remember to also look at the other aspects of life through the glasses of sustainability. 

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