Ecological Sustainability Essays

Environment can be wisely described through the words of Mr. Walt Disney –

“Landscapes of great wonder and beauty lie under our feet and all around us. They are discovered in tunnels in the ground, the heart of flowers, the hollows of trees, fresh-water ponds, seaweed jungles between tides, and even drops of water. Life in these hidden worlds is more startling in reality than anything we can imagine”.

And sustainability is simply everything that we need for our survival and well-being, either directly or indirectly from our environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Environmental sustainability involves making decisions and taking action that are in the interests of protecting the natural world, with particular emphasis on preserving the capability of the environment to support human life. It is an important topic in the present time, as people are realising the full impact that businesses and individuals can have on the environment. Environmental sustainability is about making responsible decisions that will reduce your business’ negative impact on the environment. It is not simply about reducing the amount of waste you produce or using less energy, but is concerned with developing processes that will lead to businesses becoming completely sustainable in the future.

Currently, environmental sustainability is a topical issue that receives plenty of attention from the media and from different governmental departments.

Businesses now are wary of quick fixes and short-term gains. They want to grow in a manner that’s mindful of all their stakeholders, including global and local communities, economies, and the environment. In other words, they want to practice business in a more sustainable fashion.  Businesses are expected to lead in the area of environmental sustainability as they are considered to be the biggest contributors and are also in a position where they can make a significant difference.

Businesses can potentially cause damage to all areas of the environment. Some of the common environmental concerns include: damaging rainforests and woodlands through logging and agricultural clearing, polluting and over-fishing of oceans, rivers and lakes, polluting the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, damaging prime agricultural and cultivated land through the use of unsustainable farming practices etc.

For much of the past, most businesses have acted with little regard or concern for the negative impact they have on the environment. Environmental sustainability forces businesses to look beyond making short term gains and look at the long term impact they are having on the natural world. You need to consider not only the immediate impact your actions have on the environment, but the long term implications as well. For example, when manufacturing a product, you need to look at the environmental impact of the products entire lifecycle, from development to disposal before finalizing your designs.

Many large and small organizations are guilty of significantly polluting the environment and engaging in practices that are simply not sustainable. However, there are now an increasing number of businesses that are committed to reducing their damaging impact and even working towards having a positive influence on environmental sustainability.

As a business priority, environmental management is on the rise. Enterprise is already preparing for a future in which green regulations are mandatory, green consumers are the majority, and green IT is a requirement. Environmental management can help enable companies to make efficient use of energy and material resources, as well as help them implement strict controls on greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental contamination.

You might expect the recession would end that trend. But the recession has actually motivated many of our customers to implement more cost-effective, environmentally friendly improvements such as consolidating data centers, upgrading networks to fiber optics, and using hosted and managed services. Some are taking things a step further by investing in environmental and energy management software. It’s these companies that are looking to gain deeper insights into their environmental impact, as well as seeking to monitor reduction actions on an automated basis.

To create a more sustainable business, these efforts will need to continue. However, only when companies move beyond technological efficiency—and begin to critically examine their current business practices and required resources—will they approach authentic sustainability.

Environmentally sustainable businesses may also have a competitive edge when it comes to attracting customers and investors. Modern consumers are aware of social and environmental issues and keep themselves informed about which businesses are acting responsibly in the community. Investors are equally aware of these issues and there is a trend developing towards investing in environmentally sustainable companies. Many countries like Australia have been taking many initiatives to support the businesses caring for environmental sustainability. The Australian Business Award for Environmental Sustainability recognizes organizations that implement policies and/or execute initiatives that demonstrate leadership and commitment to the enhancement, preservation and protection of the environment.

Admittedly, the process of changing corporate mindsets and culture to embrace sustainability can be a challenge for some enterprises. But even so, the underlying concept shouldn’t be too unfamiliar. The contemporary idea of sustainable business is, at its heart, merely an extension of principals that underpin value and wealth. After all, maintaining an environment that enables continued prosperity is imperative for any organization’s survival and growth.

But to achieve authentic sustainability, companies may need to broaden their view of resources that are critical to business. Once that shift occurs, it will be natural for companies to anticipate how decisions may impact both current and future stakeholders—because they recognize that those decisions will ultimately impact both their current and future business.

Technology will be an important part of the solution. But only partly. The key will be to nurture a culture that has the discipline, patience, and courage to look beyond short-term solutions and opt for business practices that can offer the greatest positive impact and longevity. “The great challenge of the twenty-first century is to raise people everywhere to a decent standard of living while preserving as much of the rest of life as possible.”

Essay by Ms. Aastha Singhal

Do you have a flair for writing? Interested in environmental issues? Why don’t you submit an article for the GreenCleanGuide 2013 contest? For contest rules, please visit thislink

Sustainability at Macalester College
Suzanne Savanick Hansen, Macalester College
For the past three decades, Macalester College has been a leader in implementing sustainable practices on campus. In 2008-2009, the newly established Sustainability Office facilitated a campus-wide sustainability strategic planning process. The results of that work, along with Climate Action Plan recommendations by the Environmental Studies senior seminar led to the adoption of Macalester College's first comprehensive Sustainability Plan (http://www.macalester.edu/sustainability/MacalesterSustainabilityPlanSept2009.pdf). The plan articulates concrete goals and actions for the college including:

Sustainability at Colorado College
Barbara Whitten, Colorado College
Colorado College has a very active sustainability program, which is fully described on our web page (http://www.coloradocollege.edu/welcome/tour/sustainability/). Because of our location, we traditionally attract students with strong environmental interests, who spend their weekends and block breaks hiking, climbing, kayaking and skiing. We've had an active environmental student group for twenty five years; recently their efforts have shifted from preserving the wilderness (old growth forests, endangered species, etc) to sustainability on campus and in the community. Administration support has also increased; sustainability is a significant effort of President Celeste, who signed the President's Climate Commitment in 2009. In 2008, he created the Sustainability Council, which is composed of administrators, facilities staff, faculty, and students, and oversees all campus sustainability initiatives. Administrative support has enabled us to increase the level of support for sustainability, but many of the initiatives continue to be student-driven.

Sustainability at Luther
Steve Holland, Luther College
There are several reasons for my interest in sustainability education. Sustainability education complements the goals of a liberal education and the mission of Luther College in many ways. First, sustainability education emphasizes an interdisciplinary, systems approach to thinking about problems. It promotes an understanding of social and ecological systems, an awareness of their interdependence, and an appreciation for the complexity of our world. Second, sustainability education demands attention to the importance of place and community while simultaneously increasing students' awareness of cross-cultural perspectives and global interconnectedness. Finally, sustainability education helps students become informed, ethical citizens. The ability to assess empirical claims, think critically about alternative viewpoints, engage in political discourse, advocate change, and commit to action leads students toward a life of service and learning. As a teacher in a liberal arts college, I think it is essential to introduce sustainability concepts wherever appropriate.

Making Sustainability Visible
Thomas Beery, University of Minnesota-Duluth
Thomas Beery, Center for Environmental Education, University of Minnesota-Duluth Sustainability is about people and the choices they make, ultimately it is a question of human behavior. A deliberate effort to ...

Sustainability at Beloit - Biology
Yaffa Grossman, Beloit College Download essay as PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 20kB Jun2 10) My interests in sustainability date to the late 1980s, when I worked in the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of ...

Sustainability and Understanding Time
Mary Savina, Carleton College
Mary Savina, Geology, Carleton College When I'm talking with students in geology courses about sustainability, I don't use the word much. As one of my colleagues, Aaron Swoboda, puts it, we know ...

Sustainability at Monmouth - Ecology
Tim Tibbetts, Monmouth College
As a plant ecologist I look at sustainability through biodiversity lenses. How many corn and bean fields will be planted where native forests and prairies were cleared? How many invasive plants will threaten the remaining fragments? How will these fragments be used, preserved, protected? How will we deal with soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, increased fertilizer demands, run off and eutrophication of our waters? And still feed a growing population?

Sustainability at Ripon - Economics
Dmytro Zhosan, Ripon College
While in general sustainability seems to be becoming more and more popular as a topic these days, one thing that needs to be understood is what kind of sustainability we are talking about. There is no secret that the definition itself varies among people and among institutions. Some prefer to focus on small issues – like switching to local-grown food and going "trayless" in the commons, some decide to "go bigger" and replace grass on athletic fields with artificial turf made of recycled tires or turn to alternative energy sources for different campus needs. Regardless of which particular actions we are talking about, the end goal seems to be the same for all – minimizing the environmental impact of human activity.

Sustainability and Me
Jim Farrell, St. Olaf College
Curiosity brought me to sustainability, and it still keeps me interested. Many years ago, Alexander Wilson wrote a book called The Culture of Nature,a title that seemed so strange to me that I decided to teach it (which is what I often do to satisfy my curiosity). My first step was a course by that title in the first year writing program. My second was an interdisciplinary course on "The Environmental Imagination," meant to introduce the Humanities as part of our Environmental Studies major. In both of those classes, I encouraged students to think about their own place, St. Olaf College.

Sustainability at Ripon - Communication
Steve Martin, Ripon College
As a newcomer to the academic application of sustainability, I admittedly have a lack of knowledge of official College efforts related to sustainability. I do know that four years ago, Ripon College received some favorable national attention for its "Velorution" program. The College provided a free mountain bike to incoming first-year students in exchange for an agreement that they would not bring a car to campus. In part, this was a response to a perceived "parking problem" (there really was not a problem, though students liked to think there was), but it was also done with the environment in mind. The College also closed and removed several city streets that went through the middle of the campus. It is now a much nicer green space. It is aesthetically more pleasing and also safer. Importantly, it has discouraged students from driving from their rooms to classes (something that was silly to do in the first place, since walking to class is actually faster than driving anywhere on our small campus.)

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