We hear the words ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ almost every day. But what does it mean exactly? Is it about people and culture, our environment, or jobs and money? Is it about cities or the country? Is it about you and me or is it something for other people to worry about?

Sustainability is about all of these things and more.

Sustainability could be defined as an ability or capacity of something to be maintained or to sustain itself. It’s about taking what we need to live now, without jeopardising the potential for people in the future to meet their needs.

If an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to continue forever.

Some people say it is easy to recognise activities that are unsustainable because we know it when we see it. Think of extinction of some species of animals, often due to the activities of humans. Or salinity (salt) in our rivers due to changed land management practices. And at home, the amount of packaging you put in the bin that has to go into landfill.

Living sustainably is about living within the means of our natural systems (environment) and ensuring that our lifestyle doesn’t harm other people (society and culture). It’s a big idea to get your head around, for all of us. It’s really about thinking about where your food, clothes, energy and other products come from and deciding whether you should buy and consume these things. For example, you can buy timber imported from other countries to use in your home, but do you know enough about the rules in place in those countries to prevent animals from being harmed during the timber harvesting process, or if the local indigenous people support the harvesting, or how much they get paid?

Using the comment section below, share with what sustainability means to you.


  • Heightened energy efficiency, reduced resource usage and enhanced human welbeing.

    • Barry, I like your response. Clear, concise and on point. I wonder how the contstruction workers who build the structure might be part of the sustainability other than to build with sustainable methods and techniques? In many parts of the globe, we are still treating them like slaves and tossing them into the garbage when they are hurt, die or the project is complete…What do you think?

  • Sustainability as it relates to buildings is about (a) the use of environmentally friendly materials (from cradle to grave) (b) good building design (natural light, rainwater capture etc.) (c) the structural integrity, resilience and longevity of the building itself (d) it’s fitness for purpose and (e) its cost effectiveness from a construction and operation viewpoint.

  • It is about a balance between usage of energy / materials, and our environment (taking account a full life cycle), and ensuring that future generations are not in any way disadvantaged.

  • Sustainability is about a holistic approach to the preservation of every living thing on our planet, and soon, to the entire Universe based on the amount of space junk left by space expeditions.

  • Ban all HFC refrigerants by 2025 in all HVACR systems with a charge >5 kg and combine this with energy efficiency engineering.

  • Sustainability = Good Design + Execution

  • Curb the greed for making things available abundantly involving inputs from natural resources . Limit the lavish use of man made products stringently to ensure it is remains available for others in times to come.Don't manufacture for creating comforts in life at the cost of endangering life itself.

  • In the Province of New Brunswick I have to work with builders and the public. The definition we use when talking about sustainable development that is understood by everybody is the on that was said by an African delegate to Johannesburg (Rio+10): Enough – For all – Forever.

  • Don't throw the bay out with the bathwater.
    Don't unnecessarily or prematurely replace existing plant with "green" plant just because…..I get more stars.
    Count the retained intrinsic resources value of the existing plant against the resources to replace it.

Autodesk – 300 X 250 (expire December 31 2017)