"Greening For Today" Or "Sustaining For Tomorrow"
The issue of language is a tricky one for any movement or cause, finding a term or mutually agreed upon lexicon is a daunting task especially when the topic is as innately complex as sustainability. One major schism comes from the two most popular terms to represent a product, system or human civilization that is at stasis with our ecosystem- “green”- the more readily adopted but less accurate choice- and “sustainable” - a less accessible but richer idea. When the term ‘green’ is used, it is because some aspect of a product or process has been modified to do less harm to people or the planet, sometimes both. While this can certainly be a measurable improvement, it is not the solution to rising oceans, melting ice caps, polluted air, drinking water shortages, toxic oil spills and all the rest that flows from our dysfunctional behavior. Sustainability is a more holistic and encompassing concept that can be applied to efforts that look at the whole picture of how something is made- like a lifecycle assessment, carbon footprint and other more macro views. But even this is problematic, because there is no single agreed upon definition or proscription for labeling something ‘sustainable.” I believe the growing consensus amongst people who live and struggle with this issue would agree that finding ways to mimic and learn from natural closed loop cycles of growth and decay is both the starting point and the goal of sustainable living. In the end, we can’t say one product or system tweak will be the solution to ‘saving the planet’ or even to just preventing one more super storm or water shortage- drastic changes need to take place and they involve rethinking our entire economic system. There is no single magic bullet, but a major difference can be made by shifting our economic activity towards supporting locally made products that use only recycled or rapidly renewable materials using low carbon systems in companies that provide more than decent wages and conditions and that are not detrimental to humans or our ecosystem.