The use of the word sustainable has been popular for at least a decade now. It has the same understood meaning as green or eco-friendly. Although the dictionary definition states “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”, Wikipedia captures how it is most often used:
Sustainability is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely co-exist on planet Earth over a long time. Specific definitions of sustainability are difficult to agree on and therefore vary in the literature and over time. Sustainability is commonly described along the lines of three dimensions (also called pillars): environmental, economic and social. This concept can be used to guide decisions at the global, national and at the individual level (e.g. sustainable living). In everyday usage of the term, sustainability is often focused mainly on the environmental aspects.
Crop rotation in agriculture is an example of a sustainable practice. By changing the demands on the soil each year, the nutrients are not diminished at the same rate and hence the land will be productive over longer periods of time. Recycling metals in lieu of further extraction through mining is a sustainable practice. Adding insulation to your attic and sealing out the gaping holes around your cannisters lighting is a sustainable effort to conserve energy.
What is interesting is that the word suggests that some of what we do is for the here and now and some of what we do is for future generations. In adapting practices where a little effort or resources are forgone in the short run, wAs this guy ith an anticipated gain in the long run, we acknowledge that there is a bimodal function to our action. There is what is chosen for oneself and what is chosen for a societal goal.
And this is a good thing as this is how we solve problems. As this guy suggests, we will always be able to feed the world.