What Does Sustainable Really Mean?
Terms such as Green, here sustainable, case ecological, nurse and eco-friendly have been used for decades. They have been buzzwords for the Green movement and, as with most buzzwords, they fall out of favor or change over time. The word sustainable has also changed over time, and today it means far more than it did decades ago.
According to some reports, the word sustainable dates back to the 18th century, when European foresters became concerned about the rate at which the continent was being deforested. In those days, wood was used for everything from building material to fuel for heat and cooking.
The foresters began a program of planting and harvesting trees in equal amounts, a practice that was referred to as “scientific” or “sustainable” forestry. The foresters reasoned that by doing so, they could replenish the forests, making trees a renewable resource. This same policy is still carried on in the forestry industry today.
The word was more officially defined in 1987. The Brundtland Commission, formally known as the World Commission on the Environment and Development, defined sustainable as follows: [Using a natural resource in such a way] that it meets the needs of the present [generation] without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Although this is the definition used in this article, we should note that sustainability has an even broader meaning today. It often refers to what is called the “triple bottom line” or the “three Ps,” meaning that sustainable companies, actually have three bottom lines rather than just one. These are: