Posts Tagged ‘New Year’s’

A New Year’s Gift to Myself–Part Two

January 1, 2009

A New Year’s Gift to Myself—Part Two

I enjoyed my New Years gift to myself so much that I have decided to make it a gift that keeps on giving all year. Part one of my New Year’s gift was a definition and context for Sustainability by LeoScribe. Part two is a fleshing out of perspectives on how we can connect our actions to a broader system of sustainability.

The Whistler blueprint I mentioned in the last post was so impressive that it deserves further examination. The first 2 objectives (in the Leoscribe interpretation) concern the relative use of natural resources. Objective 1—reduce the amount of resources extracted from the Earth. So the earth is not a compilation of natural resources waiting to be extracted in service to humanity; rather Earth is something for humanity to co-exist with (here is the first perspective). This does not mean extract nothing; it does mean proactively look for ways to extract less (i.e., renewable energy sources).

Objective 2—use less artificial substances and chemicals (than you did before). The more ethereal interpretation of this is that God gave us lots of great natural materials to use on Earth for our needs. We can look for ways to use them at a rate that enables them to be preserved for future uses as well (2nd perspective). The most visible example of this is food produced via organic methods. A counter example is what happened to the West Coast salmon fisheries over the past couple of years: the federal government had to halt salmon fishing for a while near Oregon to preserve the stocks due to overfishing.

Objectives 3 and 4 are oriented to looking beyond what goes into the actual product itself. Objective 3 is to reduce (our) contribution to the degradation of the natural environment. If you think of a tree that dies and fall over, it shortly becomes the home for other plants, thus renewing itself. It does not go to be entombed into a landfill. The perspective here is to be concerned with the entire product lifecycle. Be concerned with how a product is made before you use it and what happens to it after you use it-(3rd perspective).

Objective 4 is concerned with human impact as well as environmental impact. The critical point here is that traditional economic theory assumes a hands off, disconnected relationship between buyer/consumer and seller/producer. But sustainability is about creating connections where none previously existed. Not only do I want to support environmentally friendly products, but I also hope to support businesses that value their workers and their communities- (4th perspective).

That’s a lot of perspectives to think about! These 4 perspectives seem so easy and mutually reinforcing. This is a caution sign because this whole “sustainability” idea might be too good to be true. After all, it might be a little more difficult than expected to translate these ideals into actual practice. But on the other hand, the thought processes and actions involved in actually implementing these sustainability perspectives might also lead to connections and ideals that I have never known before.

Happy New Year!

A New Year’s Gift To Myself–Part One

December 24, 2008

It is the holiday season, and it is the time for gift giving. This year, I have decided to give myself a gift. For my gift, I’ve decided to attempt to define sustainability for myself. What do I mean what I say I am interested in “sustainability”? Inquiring minds including mine might want to know (and not just those inquiring minds who read tabloid media). So I gave myself a deadline of Christmas day to create a personal definition of sustainability. This also allows a full week for my personalized definition to sink in before the New Year of 2009 begins for real. That way I can start with New Year looking for ways to implement my brand new definition.

It turns out that I actually need a personalized definition because there is no standard definition of sustainability. I guess a standard definition is one that everyone agrees on, kind of like red traffic lights mean stop.

A good place to start is the “triple bottom line” concept. The Triple Bottom Line concept is People, Planet, and Profit. A growing number of businesses are evaluating their ability to not just maximize their own profits. They are also measuring their impact upon the planet, and also on how they support their various stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, etc. That is a very good model, and if more businesses did that I think we would be much better off. There is more to life than money, and the triple bottom line idea reflects that. Ask any entrepreneur if they derive satisfaction from their business beyond the profit/loss number and I’ll bet that a great majority would respond with a resounding yes. If entrepreneurs can, why can’t their organizations also?

However, I also wanted a broader definition of sustainability. I found one in a surprising place—Whistler Canada—the home of one of the best ski resorts in the world. They have a Whistler 2020 sustainability plan, which I paraphrase from here:

The Earth is a system, and natural cycles are essential to the health of this system. Sustainability is about natural cycles running in perpetuity. We can help maintain these natural cycles by 1) reducing the amount of natural resources we need to extract from the Earth in the first place, 2) using less artificial substances and chemicals as we can, 3) preserving the open land and natural environment which is left, and 4) proactively attempting to refrain from exploiting the providers and suppliers of our goods and services. (Website: )

I like both of these perspectives individually. I also like the combination of the economic and human perspective (the triple bottom line) paired with the implicitly spiritual one (System Earth). So my gift to myself has become a way to not only incorporate environmental and community impacts into my buying and lifestyle decisions, but also to experience some potential for spiritual understanding while doing so. Who knew?

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