Definitions of Sustainability | Region 10 | US EPA

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Definitions of Sustainability

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
WCED "Our Common Future"
(The Brundtland Report)
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Sustainability is a new way of thinking about an age-old concern: ensuring that our children and grandchildren inherit a tomorrow that is at least as good as today, preferably better. We want to make sure that the way we live our lives is sustainable - that it can continue and keep improving for a long, long time.
Sustainable Seattle

We define sustainable environmental stewardship to include those concepts, strategies, tools, practices, an dapproaches that lead to environmental improvement in a manner that is sustainable over tiem, considers the long term effects as well as the shorter term, more immediate effects, and that contributes positively, even if indirectly, to the social and economic condition.
Ed Piņero, Federal Environmental Executive

Leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm life or the environment, make amends if you do.
Paul Hawken

A sustainable society is one that lives within the self-perpetuating limits of its environment. That society is not a "no growth" society - it is, rather a society that recognizes the limits of growth and looks for alternative ways of growing.
James Coomer

Sustainability is equity over time ... think of it as extending the Golden rule through time .. Do unto future generations as you would have them do unto you.
Robert Gilman,
Context Institute

Sustainable development is economic growth that will benefit present and future generations without detrimentally affecting the resources or biological systems of the planet.
President's Council on Sustainable Development

Sustainable development refers to a positive rate of change in the quality of life (i.e. well being) of people based on a system which permits this positive rate of change to be maintained for an indefinite period of time.
Elliot Rosenberg

Growth based on forms and processes of development that do not undermine the integrity of the environment on which they depend.
Jim MacNeill
Secretary General of the World Commission
on Environment and Development

Achieving the ecological balance which allows economic prosperity and social equity to be achieved across generations.
David Schaller

Sustainable design is the careful nesting of human purposes with the larger patterns and flows of the natural world...
David Orr

The "greatest good for the greatest number" applies to the [number of] people within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations."
Theodore Roosevelt, 1916

Then I say the earth belongs to each...generation during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and encumbrances, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of it's own existence.
Thomas Jefferson,
September 6, 1789

Development that provides real improvements in the quality of human life and at the same time conserves the vitality and diversity of the Earth.
Caring for the Earth

A sustainable United States will have a growing economy that provides equitable opportunities for satisfying livelihoods and a safe, healthy, high quality of life for current and future generations. Our nation will protect its environment, its natural resource base, and the functions and viability of natural systems on which all life depends.
The President's Council on Sustainable Development

If you get right down to it, sustainability is really the study of the interconnectedness of all things.
Barbara J. Lither, J.D

For more information on international sustainable development activities, see

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