Sustainable Landscapes, step-4 Sustainability, eco-responsible planet/people products and services

The term – sustainability – has definitely become a 21st century buzz word. Similar to the concept, green, I can barely pick up a newspaper, magazine or other form of media without seeing this word. Yet, is it clearly understood or through excessive use, rapidly become abused or confused?

 

Recently, when I quoted Ed Snodgrass of Knoll Farms (www.greenroofplants.com) as saying, “Sustainability means we don't take more out of the Earth than we are able to put back”, I created a flurry of email/blog response.

 

Scott Kyle of Full Scale Architecture (www.FullScaleArchitecture.com) says the best definition he has heard comes from the Native American perspective of ‘providing for the needs of the current generation without sacrificing the needs of future generations’. Still, “many folks and groups,” says Kyle, “appear to corrupt its meaning which is a shame, because the term should mean a product or service that is truly green.”  

 

“Those of us in natural resource management fields,” says Ellen Powell a Conservation Education Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Forestry, “think of sustainability as the "truest" green. To us, it means balancing human consumption with ecological viability, so that the resource remains viable for all purposes. In today's world, it's unrealistic to think that people will simply stop using renewable resources, such as forests. For example, if we stopped using wood as a building material, our alternatives would be materials that require more energy to manufacture such as steel. And, most of these alternative products are from finite, nonrenewable sources; in other words, not very green! On the other hand, we can provide both forest products and ecosystem services. For, land conserved through sustainable forestry is land conserved for clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, recreation, carbon sequestration, and a host of other benefits.”

 

Similar to Ellen Powell’s perspective, Somphit Kham of Giving Sustainability (www.GivingSustainability.com) defines sustainability as a product and/or service that is eco-friendly and contributes to social responsibility. On the other hand, Patricia Stansbury, principal of laceName w:st="on">EpiclaceName> laceType w:st="on">GardenslaceType> (www.EpicGardens.com), has found the definition to be more philosophical or spiritual. “I,” she says, “have been invited to speak at a number of venues including churches about environmental stewardship as a matter of faith, and schools about how choosing locally produced food and consumer goods produces a more sustainable economy.”  

 

Anne Bedarf of GreenBlue Institute found it disturbing when Provost Tim Garson of laceType w:st="on">UniversitylaceType> of laceName w:st="on">VAlaceName> described sustainability as ‘only about eco-efficiency’. She and her classmates forwarded a letter stating, “Sustainability is the ULTIMATE green; but it's not a thing; rather, sustainability is a process, or a framework, by which our economy, people and planet can move toward equity and be self-sustaining. My work (www.sustainablepackaging.org) is a sector in which industry, government and nonprofits work together to define sustainable packaging. So, I believe each sector of society should develop a definition of what sustainability means for them.”

 

And, there in, as Bedarf acknowledges, sustainability is more than ‘green’. It is a way of living in the world with an ethical outlook that recognizes the impact of where we live, how we commute to class or work, what we eat, and what we buy as it relates to impacting other cultures and ecosystems near and far. 

 

So, what does the term sustainability mean in relation to your day-to-day activities? In my first of five steps to sustainable landscape topics, I challenged you to make an eco-green commitment. Did you comply or are you still too big for your eco-boots, www.conservation.org/ecofootprint? Next, as discussed in step-2, I challenged you to not limit effort to personal or neighborhood spaces, take it to work with you. Encourage employers to measure their eco-footprints, (www.carbonfootprint.com). Then, in step-3, I shared with you visiting an eco-city and described urban green, a result of the synergy of all - as one consistent presence. For when I walked this city, I saw the result of a community planning strategy, eco-city - http://alexandriava.gov/Eco-City.

 

Presently, in step-4, I’m questioning your definition of sustainability and shared with you the perspective of others. On October 23rd, I invite you to attend my speech Gardening Green: the sustainable landscape which occurs during the DC Green Festival. Nevertheless, regardless of whether you can or can not attend this Festival, I challenge you to work with civic and business communities to ensure your community’s urban/suburban green. Together, let’s ‘green’ our Communities: move America’s landscape from eco-weak to eco-chic, creating sustainability, a legacy of healthy green.

 

Author’s Note - A final step invites all to the DC Green Festival Saturday, October 23, from 12:30 to 1:15pm held at the Organic Gardening and Urban Farming Pavilion located in the DC Convention Center to hear my speech Gardening Green: the sustainable landscape.  For details, see Green Festivals http://www.greenfestivals.org/index.php?option=com_mtree2&task=viewlink&link_id=1562 .

 

 

 

 

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