Sustainability – A Balancing Act
Although the word “sustainability” brings to mind terms like recycling, renewable energy and being eco-friendly, it also involves much more than just these three things. It’s a delicate balancing act. Sustainability arises when we’re able to meet the needs of today’s generation without compromising the needs of future generations.
Sustainability is impacted by three interconnected pillars – social, environmental and economic sustainability. These pillars are also referred to as people, planet and profits. Each factor affects all the others and is affected by each in return. When this happens it means the environment is healthy, our economic standing is secure and our social life is fulfilling!
Social sustainability ensures that future generations benefit from at least the same quality of life as we do. It focuses on the betterment of society in general by creating communities that are fair, diverse, connected and offer a high quality of life. It takes into consideration all the things people need from the communities they live and work in.
From a company’s perspective, this means understanding the corporation’s effect on people and society as a whole. Social sustainability can be difficult to quantify but is easy to identify, it’s comprised of living conditions, work-life balance, health and safety, community engagement and more. A great example of social sustainability is the Clean Water Act which set minimum water quality standards and protected our water supply by making it illegal to discharge pollutants in our water sources!
Taking care of our planet means properly managing our natural resources. Environmental sustainability is based on the rate of renewable energy generated, pollution creation and the elimination of non-renewable resources. Simply put, when it comes to renewable resources we aim to only reap what we sow. Resources need time to regenerate if they’re to be sustainable, so ensuring we’re contributing back what we take, is at the core of environmental sustainability.
There’s no doubt that global warming is causing climate change. That’s why reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting carbon-absorbing vegetation is so important in maintaining equilibrium within our natural system.
Our environment also greatly impacts our social sustainability. Our wellbeing often involves our access to environmental resources which is why this dynamic is a symbiotic relationship.
Achieving economic sustainability requires a long-term approach. Long-term benefits must be weighed against other aspects of sustainability because when economic growth is the sole driver in decision making, we lose sight of environmental and social factors that are equally as important.
Many companies find that contributing positively on the impact of the planet can also create a positive financial impact. By decreasing the amount of packaging, for example, can allow a company to reduce their costs and at the same time, lessen their environmental impact. Good business practices today include focusing on reducing your carbon footprint through water usage, package waste and overall impact on the environment. At West 5 we encourage that way of life. We provide community gardens so everyone can cultivate their own food. They save money, reduce packaging and even reduce CO2 emissions from produce transporting. Our community is powered by the sun, saving several Kw of energy per year and we are a Net Zero community meaning that we produce the same amount of energy we use!
Preserving a Way of Life
When these three pillars are balanced, our well-being and quality of life are preserved and we achieve full sustainability. Natural resources are maintained, the environment is protected, the economy thrives, and our quality of life is improved. Building a sustainable planet should be a goal for everyone, it’s in our best interest! Plus, we are living through the largest economic opportunity in our history to contribute sustainably to our planet. True sustainability is a worldwide initiative that asks us all to learn to become stewards of this planet. At West 5, we know this is the way to the best possible future for us all, will you join us?