Sustainability From EPA

I remember watching “The Simson”. In the movie, grandfather says, “epa!epa!” That is why I know this agency

EPA is United States Environmental Protection Agency, and this website has alot of information about sustainability and what EPA does.

Sustainability Basic Information.

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A Brief History of Sustainable Development

A Brief History of Sustainable Development.



The Sustainability Reporting Program works from a definition of sustainability that sees human activities as part of and dependent upon the natural world. In scientific terms, the human ecosystem, including the communities we build, is a subset of the larger ecosystem of the Earth.

Sustainability is about meeting basic human needs and wants. People value their health and that of their children, economic security and happiness. These are primary elements in our quality of life.

Most definitions stress that sustainability requires making decisions that recognize the connections between actions and effects in the environment, economy and society. Sustainability is very much about what kind of a legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren.


The sustainability idea as we know it emerged in a series of meetings and reports during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment marked the first great international meeting on how human activities were harming the environment and putting humans at risk.

The 1980 World Conservation Strategy, prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature along with the UN Environment Program and the World Wildlife Fund, promoted the idea of environmental protection in the self-interest of the human species.

In 1987, the UN-sponsored Brundtland Commission released Our Common Future, a report that captured widespread concerns about the environment and poverty in many parts of the world.

The Brundtland report said that economic development cannot stop, but it must change course to fit within the planet’s ecological limits. It also popularized the term sustainable development, which it defined as development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

World attention on sustainability peaked at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro. It brought together the heads or senior officials of 179 governments, and included the Earth Summit, the largest-ever meeting of world leaders. Rio produced two international agreements, two statements of principles and a major action agenda on worldwide sustainable development.

The interest in sustainability that flourished during that period was spurred by a series of incidents and discoveries, including the leak of poisonous gas from a chemical plant at Bhopal, India, the explosion and radioactive release from Chernobyl, Ukraine, the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer, leaking toxic chemical dumps, such as Love Canal, general fears about chemical contamination and conflicts over decreasing natural resources such as forests and fisheries.

The Brundtland report captured many of those concerns when it said:

“Major, unintended changes are occurring in the atmosphere, in soils, in waters, among plants and animals. Nature is bountiful but it is also fragile and finely balanced. There are thresholds that cannot be crossed without endangering the basic integrity of the system. Today we are close to many of those thresholds.”

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Defining Sustainability

There are many definitions of “Sustainability.” Some of these definitions are complementary or contradictory to varying degrees, some are more implied than specified, and some are just a few words while others are hundreds of pages long.

In order to study or attempt to document any topic, one must first establish the scope of the project, outline procedures, and define critical terms. The fact that various groups contest the multiple definitions of sustainability does not preclude the necessity of specifying the term — particularly for an initiative purporting to document practices that can be characterized as “sustainable.”

Below is a working definition of sustainability that guides the Sustainability History Project. Students and community members are encouraged to review, critique, challenge, qualify, and otherwise “kick the tires” of this definition in our common quest to understand the topic more thoroughly and integrate lessons into our own lives.

There are three headings below:

What Sustainability IsWhat Sustainability Is NotSelected Sources

What Sustainability Is

Our current understanding of the often-interchangeable terms sustainability and sustainable development can be traced to the United Nation’s Brundtland Commission Report of 1987, officially titled Report of the World Commission on Environment  and Development: Our Common Future.  The various concepts bundled within the term “sustainability” each have their own history, and some historians have recently taken it upon themselves to provide the invaluable service of presenting inclusive narratives that identify aspects of the concept that have changed and remained constant across time and cultures.

It is critical to understand three important dynamics integral to formulations and practices of sustainability:

1) The term is a product of historical development:

      The idea of sustainability has changed over time, our contemporary use of the term is but the latest, and this contemporary use is grounded in the Brundtland Commission Report.


2) There are three fundamental pillars of sustainability, as articulated in the Brundtland Commission Report: Ecology, Economy, and Equity.  These pillars are distinct enough to categorize broadly for analytical purposes, but they are entwined in fundamental ways that are often hard (if not impossible) to separate when considering specific examples.

3) Any given practice or approach is “sustainable” to the extent that it incorporates the three pillars identified above and to the extent that it integrates methods of quantitative measurement, tracking, and evaluation. Sustainability almost always includes implicit and explicit qualitative elements as well–such as moral, ideological, and political perspectives–but the hallmark of a practice or approach that purports to be sustainable within the contemporary, post-Bruntdland Commission, understanding is that it must be measurable in some way agreed upon by a credible community or coalition.

Based upon these three dynamics, other essential attributes of sustainability include:

** Open & Participatory:

      Agencies and organizations must be open to active involvement of community members. This involvement can include membership, input, voting, advice, appeal, and open access to records, findings, reports, decisions, and other materials. Measurability aids in openness because interested and effected parties are able to provide input into, view, track, and understand the purpose and result of any given practice identified as sustainable.


** Process, not a Destination: No given sustainable practice will be “right” for all communities at any given time. Practices must be specific enough to be measurable in some way, but also must be malleable enough to fit with a specific culture within a particular time and place. Adaptability is a hallmark of sustainability, and is fostered through an open and participatory process. One conclusion to draw from this is that our contemporary understanding of sustainability is not necessarily to maintain the status quo.

** Multi-generational Focus: As a core element of equity, sustainable practices must look beyond the present generation. Advocates of a given practice must state explicitly if their goal is the next quarterly report to shareholders, the next generation, the next 50 years, etc., and thereby expose their claim for evaluation by the broader community.

** Local Implementation Ever Mindful of Regional and Global Impacts: Since sustainability requires active community participation and measurement, it is, fundamentally, rooted in a place and time. Broad global and national sustainability initiatives often provide needed strategic focus, to be sure, but to be considered sustainable these must connect directly with specific, real-world communities and issues, and provide a mechanism for participation and evaluation.

** Has Both Benefits and Costs: Any given proposal may seem to provide benefits to some community members while exacting costs from others; these benefits and costs may fall to the locality or beyond, or may accrue to the contemporary generation or generations in the future. However, since sustainability is an open and participatory practice seeking to balance considerations of economy, ecology, and equity, it provides the impetus and structure within which these benefits and costs can be identified, addressed, negotiated, and tracked.

What Sustainability Is Not

Corollary to all the above is that if a practice is purported to be “sustainable” but neglects to address the areas above, it falls short of being sustainable, as the concept is framed in the Brundtland Commission Report. The ways in which it falls short can vary along a continuum, from another-work-in-progress to active & conscious misrepresentation for nefarious purposes.

The term “greenwashing” is often used to characterize individuals or groups perceived as operating at the latter end of this continuum.

Selected Sources

Arizona State University, Global Institute of Sustainability.

Jessica Dillard, Veronica Dujon, and Mary C. King, eds., Understanding the Social Dimension of Sustainability, New York, Routledge, 2009.

Robert B. Gibson, “Sustainability Assessment: Basic Components of a Practical Approach,” Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 24: 3 (2006), 170-182.

History and Sustainability: Research and Resources for Environmental History and Education for Sustainable Development.

Robert W. Kates, Thomas M. Parris, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz, “What is Sustainable Development? Goals, Indicators, Values, and Practice,” Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 47: 3, (April 2005), 8–21.

Oluf Langhelle, “Sustainable Development: Exploring the Ethics of Our Common Future,” International Political Science Review 20: 2 (1999), 129-149.

Oregon State University, Looking for Oregon’s Future: What is Sustainability?.

Portland State University EcoWiki.

Sustainable Future History Project.

United Nations, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, New York, 1987.
– James V. Hillegas, September 23, 2010

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Sustainability, The Cost of Doing Business, and Greenwashing

[This post was written by Teresa Celestine, Scott Demming, Stephanie Lewis, and Stephanie McCarthy.]

Sustainability is not only defined in terms of how things should be done in order to reduce material consumption and waste, but practical in ways that are actually being put to use by various individuals and organizations. Speaking from a purely academic point of view, ideas about how to be sustainable are endless. People can dream up an infinite number of ways to reduce consumption and waste. Most definitions of sustainability are subjective, correlating to the perspective of individuals and their experiences. Moving beyond personal interpretation toward a common language would improve the general acceptance and commitment of individuals to further advance the cause of creating more sustainable behavior individually and by organizations. There are an equal number of infinite applied sustainability practices that could be placed into effect. The key component for sustainability in business operations is to strive for this common language and understanding about what is real and what is not. The last thing a start-up business needs is to commit to a sustainable idea that is not real, but is simply green washing. The costs for running a business are only magnified when considering the additional time; effort and money necessary to navigate a business with the additional layer that sustainability questions add to the endeavor.

The definition of a sustainable business today is not the same definition of a sustainable business ten or twenty years ago. Keeping an eye on the bottom line is no longer enough, for a company to thrive in our economy it must also keep an eye on what is now known as the “triple bottom line,” a measurement of performance based on human, natural, and financial resources [1]. Industry, manufacturing, and businesses are increasingly incorporating environmental responsibility and social equity, along with economic considerations, into their business plans. Many businesses in Oregon are leading the way in sustainable business practices while at the same time nurturing successful operations. Gone are the days when a company only had to answer to its shareholders. Also gone is the unsustainable model of consumerism and consumption. Modern day consumers and businesses share the responsibility to insure environmental, economic, and social needs are being met now and in the future. Younger consumers (according to the US Census Bureau, over half the world’s population is under the age of 30) are increasingly more influenced by their social networks than they are by advertisers. While consumers expect value and low cost, more than ever they demand the products they purchase be produced in a sustainable manner. Many modern consumers seem willing to do with less in order to insure the products they purchase are consistent with their overall personal values. In the same vein, many businesses are willing to do with less profit to ensure not only their own sustainability, but also that of the environment and the community. In this new environment, it is vital for businesses to balance economic concerns with environmental and social considerations if they are to remain solvent. Sustainable business practices such as lowering energy usage, recycling and net-zero practices (zero landfill waste), community food drives, and Adopt-a-Highway programs are just a few low to no cost options that have tangible returns.

Even if we get everyone to agree that a common language should be found for the term sustainability and everything that goes along with it is difficult to create union if there is discourse over the definition and what it should actually mean. Even if we crossed that bridge and had union with the definition we then have another challenge. The need to create a good evaluation system of sustainability. There is entirely too much green washing going on and not enough people know how to dig through the evidence to discover if the company is truly green or just green washing. There also needs to be room for improvement within the business relating to green and sustainability. These two terms will be ever changing as new ideas surface and increase our ability to be more sustainable in the future. There is much work to be done to bring sustainability as a system into our everyday lives. There will be much opposition in the world of business because of the cost the business must absorb to become more sustainable. Not everyone wants on board. There are many companies that are all about profit and don’t focus on environmental issues. We would be naive to think that all for profit businesses want to jump on the green bandwagon if the costs are too high. If sustainability is our universal goal then how do we show businesses that there is more to sustainability than just being green? That to be sustainable you should focus on the social and economic sides of sustainability? If sustainability is our plan then who will set the standards and investigate to uncover the truth? Do we focus on just the environmental sides of sustainability? Or is that our focus because businesses seem to understand and grasp the economic and societal sides of sustainability so environmental is what is left to be discussed?


[1] Graeme Byrd, interview by Mason Walker. “[3BL]ooming Honcho: Graeme Byrd.” Sustainable Business Oregon, July 13, 2011.

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Sustainability as it relates to local food systems, food bank gardens, permaculture, and light pollution

[This post was written by Christopher Milton, Sara Davenport, Kimberly Sherwood, and Jan Steinbock.]

Our Growing Communities group is researching sustainability as it relates to local food systems, food bank gardens, permaculture and light pollution.

The idea of local food systems is a sustainability issue that is being addressed in society today, through such things as farmers markets, community gardens, and local fruit and vegetable delivery programs. However, the potential for sustainability from utilizing local food systems could be addressed much more extensively. Local food systems can provide fresh, healthy food options that make societies that utilize them more sustainable and more self-sufficient. Local food systems can also benefit communities by allowing them to see where their food is coming from and how important it is to take care of the earth that produces the food.

One component of a healthy food system are food bank gardens. There is little research available on food bank gardens, but community gardens are very similar  Most peer-reviewed studies and news articles focus on the economic and social benefits of community gardens. Yet, as Brundtland stated, “The environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needed . . .” (Kates, 2005).

By gardening locally these groups are doing good things for the environment. Local gardens reduce the amount of processing and transportation needed to get food into the hands of consumers. Recipients gain fresher, naturally ripened and possibly more nutritious vegetables than they can provision elsewhere. Gardening sequesters carbon in the soil and reduces erosion (Okvat, 2011). If the garden is managed organically the soil is improved and the biodiversity within the soil is enhanced. This in turn supports the entire local food web. All of these benefits make food bank gardens environmentally sustainable. Permaculture is an excellent way to bring the three pillars of sustainability together. Social equity is enhanced through its fundamental principle of supporting everyone equally and it encourages neighbors to help each other and build community. Economics is considered but it demands that we take responsibility for consumerism. Permaculture asks that people fund the local economy and businesses that are essential and are respectful of the three pillars of sustainability. The environment is protected through this practice by mimicking the patterns that are already found in nature. Permaculture is a practical solution for an ever changing climate and the decline of finite resources.

In contrast, the topics of light pollution and the affects of artificial light on human culture and physiology need to be studied in much greater depth. While there is ample amount of research into the affects of light pollution on other species, the human species, for the most part, has failed to receive an equal amount of study. Light pollution is no longer just a problem for astronomers, it is an issue that each individual within society should recognize. Light pollution is a multifaceted sustainability problem because of its detrimental effect on the structure of society, economic equality and the environment that we inhabit.


Kates, Robert W., Thomas M. Parris, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz. “What is Sustainable Development?” Environment 47:3 (Apr. 2005), 8-21.

Okvat, Heather A. and Alex J. Zautura  “Community Gardening: A Parsimonious Path to Individual, Community, and Environmental Resilience.” American Journal of Community Psychology 47 (Jan. 2011), 374-387.

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Electronics recycling and sustainability

[This post was written by Sam Medina, Charlie Zigmond, and Thomas Yabrough.]

The codependent pillars of sustainability (equity, environmental, economic) are typically not focused on as a whole, and therefore sustainable practices commonly fall short of their intentions or adversely affect another pillar. This concept of “sub-optimization” is a poisonous characteristic of haphazard attempts at being sustainable. People and organizations tend to focus on the environmental pillar of sustainability, with notions of the other less known pillars. In addition to this misconception, many systems of “sustainability” have been created, further “greenwashing” (having the appearance of sustainability without actually being sustainable) the public into thinking a specific set of actions will create an everlasting lifestyle that can be perpetuated for generations after.

This is a critical mistake for anyone to consider one pillar over another when making decisions about our lifestyle choices. Recycling electronics is simply a facet of sustainability, and the current definition needs to be reshaped in order to ensure that the goals of recycling are quantified, qualified, and are in common use to lead to the three-pillared version of sustainability. For example, since most of the measurement of recycling is implicated to reduce landfill use and not make the most of available resources (social equity aspect), and prevent harmful emissions (environmental), additional variables and metrics need be integrated into a system to evaluate progress (Atlee, et. al). When we as a people fail correctly to diagnose the underlying issue of a given problem, we end up “fighting fires.” In other words, we fix the next problem we foresee (landfill space), rather than the underlying issue (we waste too much). The clarity of evaluation of sustainability today is still quite elusive, but as whole society, we are narrowing in. While it is human nature to fix the most addressable problems first, eventually and with enough impetus we will come to the ultimate solution of actually changing our lifestyles.

Changing consumption and production habits is a “getting off on the right foot” strategy to get the unsustainable elements out of the picture when purchasing or selling electronics. Several initiatives have been proposed and implemented (such as the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) and the UK’s Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ROHS)), but need to be expanded and modified with time in order for the evolution of sustainability to proceed. In addition, as Conrad MacKerron states, companies must increase research and development towards acceptable alternatives[1]. Shareholders in companies are also responsible for sponsoring and initiating these changes. The hope is that as the concept of sustainability becomes embraced by the majority of the population, they will in turn put pressure on the shareholders of companies of which there is a considerable gain to introduce sustainable alternatives of their products. The responsibility of moving society away from unsustainable practices is dependent on three parties: the consumers, shareholders/companies, and government. The interactions of these groups towards sustainable goals is of equal importance to the three pillars of sustainability (equity, environment and economic).

The other factor worth noting here is that this does not necessarily need to be a consensus decision. If a system is implemented that incorporates the true cost of production (normal costs of production + all costs needed to correct any deviations from the Brundtlandian definition of sustainability) then even the least considerate of consumers will be left with no choice to live sustainably. Furthermore, if this type of system were to be implemented correctly there would be no reason to “greenwash” or to judge people who drive hummers. They can live however they want so long as they pay for the environmental aspect of their decisions. This may seem farfetched but it is already happening on a variety of other fronts. Most people don’t even realize it, but when they consume cigarettes, a portion of the tax they pay (that is hidden within the purchase price) goes to offsetting the costs associated with tobacco use (via lung cancer research, etc.). Any system whose proposed solution is dependent on a manipulating of people’s will is bound to fail. The only true solution to something this controversial or complex is to remove choice from the equation and make participation mandatory (much like speed limits or jury duty).


[1] See, for example,

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History of sustainability – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In my opinion, sustainability is a part of recycling system.

instead of replacing, sustainability offers being used for a long term.

History of sustainability – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Lighting – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

People say Wikipedia is not a good place to do research.

However, they say it is a good place to start reach.

Lighting – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Mood Lighting Design Concept | Boeing Company | Boeing 777 | August 2011 – YouTube

Different types of lighting at different places

Mood Lighting Design Concept | Boeing Company | Boeing 777 | August 2011 – YouTube.

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