Sustainability for Beginners (Basics, Resources, Tips and Answers)

Looking to learn more about sustainability?

You’re in the right place! In this introduction guide I’ll answer common questions like:

  • What is sustainability?
  • How has the field of sustainable development evolved?
  • What are the best places to learn more about sustainability?
  • Is it possible to get a job or start a business in the field?

What is Sustainability?

The term sustainability refers to the ability of the present generation to meet its needs without compromising the quality of life of the future generation.

A lot of emphasis on the sustainability discourse is placed on the environment, but it also includes social and economic factors.

The main focus in sustainability is the need to avoid exploitation of natural resources.


Evolution of Sustainability

The origin of sustainability is a number of movements including internationalism, conservationism, and social movements.

This was in response to the paradox of industrialization- industrialization brought about a higher standard of living, but many people still live in abject poverty.

It is in this light that personalities such as Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway, came up with a concerted call for sustainable development.

Today, many Americans are aware of sustainability and it’s far reaching and positive impact in enhancing the quality of life.

As a matter of fact, young people are becoming more pro-active in enhancing a sustainable business environment.

Sustainable economy

What is sustainability all about?

The best way of looking at sustainability is from the perspective of the parts, that make the whole.

The social, economic, and environmental parameters exist in dependence with each other in a complex web.

For example, if a human being does not have enough money for the school fees of his child (economic challenges and deficit), he may encroach on the forest in order to earn a living, and this will lead to economic degradation.

Similarly, a significant number of American consumers are concerned on the issue of the supply value chain and human rights. Americans are reluctant to source goods from countries which do not protect the welfare of their employees. Similarly, an increasing number of consumers do not want to source products from countries where players use natural resources to fuel conflict or maintain power.

The modern business environment is going green, and the consumers are willing to pay extra in order to protect the environment. Therefore, when you think about starting a business, consider the energy efficient products available in the market, and be sure to utilize them. The federal and state authorities offer incentives on companies that enhance sustainability.

Sustainability must be adapted to the local context. In other words, it is advisable that one avoids a one size fits all strategic sustainability plan. Put differently, one cannot copy a sustainability plan from somewhere else and paste it on the desired plan. In that case, then, one can achieve milestones in a realistic way.

Sustainability works though constant research and development on the need to come up with green products and solutions. For example, if a certain bulb is consuming a lot of light, there is a need for innovation in order to come up with alternative solutions.

However, businesses themselves must be willing to take part in the green process. Coercion is not only inconsequential, but also, it’s a misplaced strategy. Therefore, if you want to convert your followers to the use of green solutions, you must be willing to win their hearts and minds.

Sustainability as a Career/Business

The field of sustainability offers a plethora of study options indoors, in office, or in an industrial environment. There are many roles and responsibilities of a professional in sustainability. This article samples just but a few:

  • Evaluating the needs and the scope of a business in protecting the environment
  • Contributing to environmental policies
  • Making an audit of the operations of the business
  • Meeting the requirements of quality assurance
  • Preparing teams and enhancing the spirit of team work
  • Benchmarking
  • Engagement with the public and collecting feedback

Having stated that, you can prepare yourself for certain job titles which are relevant to sustainability. These include the following:

  • Sustainability program director
  • Sustainability program coordinator
  • Aquarist
  • Sustainability specialist
  • Air quality forecaster
  • Water quality engineer

The internet is saturated with resources which can help you prepare for your career in sustainability. However, you need to ensure that you extract data and information from valid and reliable sources. Some of the best sources of information for sustainability include the following:

University websites: eg University of Southern California

Government sources: eg United Nations: Sustainable Development

Research centers: eg RAND corporation

Non-Governmental Organizations: eg the Green Institute