Sustainability & Sustainable living
CONE 5304 Class 1& 2
CONRE 3304 -
Construction Engineering &ET
Lesson Learning Goals
• Setting the stage – the debate
– What defines the limits?
– Sustainability, sustainable yield etc
– rules for sustainability
– Nine ways to achieve sustainability
• Sustainable development
– Three pillars of sustainability
– links between unsustainable development, poverty,
hunger, and disease
– Green building
… providing for the NEEDS of ALL people alive
today, without jeopardizing future generations.
and we know that….
….we know that…
…there is a difference between
human wants and human needs.
• Gandhi said that the world could
surely provide for the needs of the
many but not the greed of the few.
Okay, But !…..
How do I know if something is
• …IS NOT ABOUT A DESTINATION
• …IT IS SIMPLY A DIRECTION
A. Top 10 Myths about Sustainability
Myth 1: Nobody knows what
sustainability really means.
• That‟s not even close to being true.
• By all accounts, the modern sense of the word entered the
lexicon in 1987 with the publication of Our Common Future, by
the United Nations World Commission on Environment and
Development (also known as the Brundtland commission after
its chair, Norwegian diplomat Gro Harlem Brundtland). That
report defined sustainable development as “development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Myth 1: Nobody knows what sustainability really means.
That is a Myth –
What is sustainability?
Write a sentence or two about
what sustainability is.
If you could give one word –
what would that word be?
Myth 2: Sustainability is
all about the
Myth 3:Sustainability is too
• Of course, recycling is important:
reusing metals, paper, wood and
plastics rather than tossing them
reduces the need to extract raw
materials from the ground, forests and
• More efficient use of pretty much
anything is a step in the direction of
sustainability. But it is just a piece of the
Myth 4:“Sustainable” is a
synonym for “green.”
• Although there‟s a fair amount of overlap between the
terms, “green” usually suggests a preference for the
natural over the artificial. With some six billion people
on the planet today, and another three billion
expected by the middle of the century, society cannot
hope to give them a comfortable standard of living
without a heavy dependence on technology.
• It‟s probably more difficult to see nuclear power as
sustainable. Unlike the other alternative energy
sources, it has long been anathema to
environmentalists, largely because of the problem of
storing radioactive waste.
Genetically modified foods – are they
sustainable? Should we produce them?
Pro & Con groups.
Genetically modified foods
Friend with Prius
Our whole lives – Ecological Footprint
Stuff The Story of Stuff
Myth 5: It’s all about
• If there is an 800-pound gorilla in the
room of sustainability, this myth is it.
• “It‟s only true in the short term
• in certain circumstances!
Myth 6:Sustainability means
lowering our standard of
• Not at all true!
It does mean that we have to do more
It does not mean that we have to go
back to the Stone Age – Jeff Jacoby
Once we start to organize ourselves and
innovate, the breakthroughs are extraordinary.
They will allow us to use resources more
productivity, which in turn allow us to be
prosperous, fed, entertained, secure.
The innovation at the heart of sustainable
living will be a powerful economic engine.
Sustainable Italian town
Myth 7:Consumer choices and grassroots
activism, not government intervention, offer
most efficient routes to sustainability.
• Pro & Cons!
Myth 8:New technology is
always the answer.
• Sometimes existing technology can
make a huge difference. Sometimes it
takes a creative business model.
• “There‟s an Italian utility that‟s selling its
customers hot water, not energy to heat
water. It‟s a different way of measuring,
and it gives the company an incentive to
be more efficient so it can be more
Myth 9:Sustainability is
ultimately a population
• This is not a myth, but it represents a
false solution. Every environmental
problem is ultimately a population
problem. If the world‟s population were
only 100 million people, we would be
hardpressed to generate enough waste
to overwhelm nature‟s cleanup systems.
We could dump all our trash in a landfill
in some remote area, and nobody would
Myth 10:Once you understand the
concept, living sustainably is a
breeze to figure out.
• You cannot really declare any practice
“sustainable” until you have done a complete
life-cycle analysis of its environmental costs.
• Even then, technology and public policy keep
evolving, and that evolution can lead to
unforeseen and unintended consequences.
The admirable goal of living sustainably
requires plenty of thought on an ongoing
Our Common Future aimed to
discuss the environment &
development as one single issue.
We all understand “environment”
But what is meant by Development?
When a word becomes so popular you
begin hearing it everywhere, in all sorts of
marginally related or even unrelated
contexts, it means one of two things. Either
the word has devolved into:
1. A meaningless cliché, or
2. It has real conceptual heft.
“Green” (“going green”) falls
squarely into the first category.
One of the main points of the
“Sustaining Our Common Future”
“Many of the same causes of
these environmental problems
entrenched poverty and over
Okay, But !…..
How do I know if something is
What exactly does it mean to
08/29/2012 CONE 3304-5304
The Sustainability Triangle
The quest for
• What are the basic concepts underlying
• What are the landmark events that have
contributed to today‟s notion of
• Will sustainable development affect
your likely career path?
• What is sustainable development,” where
does it come from, and why has it moved
from a marginal to central position in
• What are the roles and techniques used
by the private sector (firms) and public
sector (governments, international
organizations, NGOs, etc.) to further
sustainable development efforts in the
What is Sustainability?
• Sustainability represents a balance that
accommodates human needs without
diminishing the health and productivity of
• The American Institute of Architects
defines sustainability as “the ability of
society to continue functioning into the
future without being forced into decline
through exhaustion or overloading of the
key resources on which that system
What is Sustainable
Sustainable development is maintaining a delicate
balance between the human need to improve lifestyles
and feeling of well-being on one hand, and preserving
natural resources and ecosystems, on which we and
future generations depend.
• There are over 100 definitions of
sustainability and sustainable
development, but the best
known is the World Commission
on Environment and
What is Sustainable
Sustainable development is development that
meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs [World Commission on
Environment and Development, 1987; Our
Common Future (Brundtland Report)
SD calls for the careful balancing of three
systems: natural, social, and economic. The
primary focus is on protecting natural systems,
the source of life and its sustenance.
More on SD
Agenda 21: In order to meet the challenges of
environment and development, States decided to
engage in a new global partnership ... sustainable
development should become a priority item on the
agenda of the international community [UN Conf on
Env Dev, Rio de Janeiro, June 1992]
... is nondeclining human well-being over time
[David Pearce, Economics of Sustainable
Even More on SD
• A particular system that when considered in isolation
has a positive balance in relation to its own costs and
benefits (Ravetz 1992)
• Improving the quality of life within the carrying capacity
or supporting ecosystems (WCU 1991)
• The use of energy and materials in an urban area in
balance with what the region can supply continuously
through natural processes such as photosynthesis,
biological decomposition, and the biochemical
processes which sustain life (Lyle 1994)
• Something is 'sustainable' if it has the capacity to
continue. (Sustainable London)
Lester Brown (Worldwatch Institute)
• Over the long term for sustainability:
– Species Extinction <= Species Evolution
– Soil Erosion <= Soil Formation
– Forest Destruction <= Forest Regeneration
– Carbon Emissions <= Carbon Fixation
– Fish Catches <= Regeneration Capacity of
– Human Births <= Human Deaths
General Sustainability Principles
Minimize: resource consumption, use of non-
renewables, pollution, toxics, waste
Maximize: efficiency, reuse, recycling, renewable
Foster: conservation, understanding of natural
systems functions, economic justice, stewardship
Rules for Sustainability
• The guiding rules are that people must share
with each other and care for the Earth.
• Humanity must take no more from nature than
nature can replenish.
• This in turn means adopting lifestyles and
development paths that respect and work within
• It can be done without rejecting the many
benefits that modern technology has brought,
provided that technology also works within those
limits (Source: Caring for the Earth, IUCN, p8.)
Natural (N) Social (S)
Some New Vocabulary
• Systems Thinking
• Deep Ecology
• Factor 4 and Factor 10
• Carrying Capacity
• Ecological Footprint
• Ecological Rucksack
• Ecological Economics
• Environmental Ethics
• Clean Production
• Industrial and
• Industrial Metabolism
• Ecological Design
• Green Construction
• Green Building
• Green Building Initiative
• LEED, BREEAM, Green
• Emergy, Exergy,
• Rainwater Harvesting
• Greywater, Reclaimed
Water, Black water
So, what is the
•Too many people
•Impact per person
• Our current resource consumption and
destruction of natural systems is unsustainable.
• Humankind can live sustainably if and only if it
controls its population, lives within nature’s
resources, and extensively protects natural
• “There is no inherent conflict between protecting
the environment and a strong human economy
because the environment is the support system for
all human activity.” Anthony Cortese, Earth Day
What do we Mean by
What is an Ecosystem?
• Interactions between biological (living)
organisms in a defined area, and with
their physical environment (air, water,
land), and the associated flow and
transformation of energy
Average Global Water
Groundwater 1,400 years
Atmospheric moisture 8 days
Stream/river water 16 days
Soil moisture 1 year
Swamp water 5 years
Lake water 17 years
Exhaustion of Natural Resources
• Rainforest loss: 1 acre per second
• Annual temperate forest loss: 4 million hectares
(Siberia), 1 million hectares (Canada)
• Forests: 40% (1,000 years ago) 30% (1900) 20%
• Loss of 20% of all species by 2030
• Movement of more material than natural forces
• Loss of 24 billion tons of topsoil annually
Services Provided by Natural
• Air quality enhancement
• Soils for food, wood, paper
• Ambient temperature
• Dampening flood peaks
• Erosion control
• Renewable energy
• Food and water for
• Pest control
• Recreation and tourism
• Grazing for
• Noise barriers and
• Natural fires
• Carbon, energy, water
• Hazard reduction
Worth of Ecosystem
• Costanza et al 1997, “The value of the world‟s
ecosytem goods and services,” Nature,
– Pollination, Raw Materials Production, Water
Supply, Waste Recycling & Pollution Control,
Recreation & Education, Climate and Atmosphere
Regulation, Soil Formation and Erosion Control,
Control of Pests & Diseases
• Value of services: US$16 to $US54 trillion
• World GNP: US$18 trillion
+ 1.2 meter
The Four System Conditions
In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to
1. concentrations of substances extracted from the
2. concentrations of substances produced by society;
3. degradation by physical means;
and, in that society. . .
4. human needs are met worldwide
1.THE NATURAL STEP'S FOUR SYSTEM
• SUBSTANCES FROM THE EARTH'S CRUST MUST
NOT SYSTEMATICALLY INCREASE IN NATURE.
• In a sustainable society, human activities such as the burning of
fossil fuels, and the mining of metals and minerals will not occur at a
rate that causes them to systematically increase in the ecosphere.
• There are thresholds beyond which living organisms and
ecosystems are adversely affected by increases in substances from
the earth's crust.
• Problems may include an increase in greenhouse gases leading to
global warming, contamination of surface and ground water, and
metal toxicity which can cause functional disturbances in animals. In
practical terms, the first condition requires society to implement
comprehensive metal and mineral recycling programs, and decrease
economic dependence on fossil fuels.
2.SUBSTANCES PRODUCED BY SOCIETY
MUST NOT SYSTEMATICALLY INCREASE IN
• In a sustainable society, humans will avoid generating systematic
increases in persistent substances such as DDT, PCBs, and Freon.
• Synthetic organic compounds such as DDT and PCBs can remain in
the environment for many years, bioaccumulating in the tissue of
organisms, causing profound deleterious effects on predators in the
upper levels of the food chain.
• Freon, and other ozone depleting compounds, may increase risk of
cancer due to added UV radiation in the troposphere. Society needs
to find ways to reduce economic dependence on persistent human-
3. THE PHYSICAL BASIS FOR THE PRODUCTIVITY AND
DIVERSITY OF NATURE MUST NOT SYSTEMATICALLY BE
• In a sustainable society, humans will avoid taking more
from the biosphere than can be replenished by natural
systems. In addition, people will avoid systematically
encroaching upon nature by destroying the habitat of
• Biodiversity, which includes the great variety of animals
and plants found in nature, provides the foundation for
ecosystem services which are necessary to sustain life
on this planet.
• Society's health and prosperity depends on the enduring
capacity of nature to renew itself and rebuild waste into
4. WE MUST BE FAIR AND EFFICIENT IN MEETING
BASIC HUMAN NEEDS
• Meeting the fourth system condition is a way to avoid violating the
first three system conditions for sustainability. Considering the
human enterprise as a whole, we need to be efficient with regard to
resource use and waste generation in order to be sustainable.
• If one billion people lack adequate nutrition while another billion
have more than they need, there is a lack of fairness with regard to
meeting basic human needs.
• Achieving greater fairness is essential for social stability and the
cooperation needed for making large-scale changes within the
framework laid out by the first three conditions.
• To achieve this fourth condition, humanity must strive to
improve technical and organizational efficiency around
the world, and to live using fewer resources, especially in
• System condition number four implies an improved
means of addressing human population growth.
• If the total resource throughput of the global human
population continues to increase, it will be increasingly
difficult to meet basic human needs as human-driven
processes intended to fulfill human needs and wants are
systematically degrading the collective capacity of the
Earth's ecosystems to meet these demands.
• One method for changing the way people think
about sustainability is something people at The
Natural Step call backcasting.
• Backcasting is framing goals with regard to a
future desired outcome, and determining short-
term decisions and investments needed to
achieve that future.
is development that meets
the needs of the present
without compromising the
ability of future generations
to meet their own needs"
“Our common future” 1987