How Sustainable is Sustainable?

How Sustainable is Sustainable?

The sustainability movement has caught tremendous speed these past few years.
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How Sustainable is Sustainable?
Thursday, February 25, 2010 - 12:09pm


The sustainability movement has caught tremendous speed these past few years. No longer is styrofoam the norm for take-out food, no longer do Americans fawn over gas guzzling SUV’s that struggle to crack seventeen miles per gallon, no longer do Americans require twelve plastic bags to carry their assorted groceries on each trip to the market. Well, we’re still working on that last one, but the point here is that—for the most part—our habits are improving: we’re becoming more conscious of our impact as a collective group of individuals. We should be proud of such a feat. For behavior shifts exercising newly-learned information concerning sustainability actually matters; the wasteful American must remain with the 2000’s alongside Harry Potter, reality shows about plastic surgery, and the belief that leggings are a viable alternative to pants.

But when do we stop striving for a more sustainable lifestyle? Will it be when we are finally living within the earth’s limits (i.e. when one’s lifestyle does not exceed one Earth)? We all know such a situation is not possible if we are to maintain our current quality of life. So we know we need to reduce our impact, but we are also faced with the dilemma that no matter how sustainable our behavior is, there will likely be a more sustainable alternative. So with that said, to what extent do we continuously strive for sustainability?

Today let’s investigate one scenario, and follow up with several more in the future.

Scenario #1: Commuting to Work

Let’s say you live twenty minutes away from your workplace in a suburban area without a public transportation system. To get to work, maybe you drive. Now we all now know that a society where everyone drives themselves to work is one that demands an excessive amount of oil for gas purposes.And the combustion of such a large quantity of fossil fuels is detrimental to our environment. So, what do you do?

What about Carpooling?! Ah, driving with several fellow employees; what an all-encompassing American solution! You save money on gas, became better acquainted with your fellow man, and—if you’re not the driver every day—enjoy the luxury of a stress-free commute to work. But what if you need control of the car radio? Or maybe the peacefulness of being alone during your commute is one of the only times all day you get to yourself. Or maybe you just don’t like your co-workers and would prefer to not see them until you arrive at work.

Do such reasons justify one’s decision not to carpool? I can’t say for sure, but it does make you think.

Maybe we should all follow the advice of Stamford Manger Josh of Dunder Mifflin and bike to work. Not only is it a greener alternative to driving, it keeps us in shape and would constitute as our daily exercise—an essential component to living a healthy lifestyle.

What would you all do in such a situation? Drive solo? Carpool? Bike? Skateboard? Public Transportation?

In your own lives, what do you actually do? Drive solo? Carpool? Bike? Teleport?

What about the majority of people you know; what do they do?

Which brings us to the moral dilemma: is there a definite right thing to do and a wrong thing to do? Clearly, there are more and less sustainable options out there, but is “sustainable” now a synonym for ‘right.’?

Please share your thoughts! Seemingly little habits such as our commutes to work are paramount to understanding our society’s approach to sustainable behavior.

My savvy internet researching abilities could not provide me with statistics of how many Americans now use reusable shopping bags, but I did find this.

In 2007 the US consumed 20,680,000 barrels a day. Think that number has increased or decreased these past two years? is dedicated to our users. We focus our attention on changing the world through recycling, waste-to-energy and conservation. We reward our users for their sustainable behaviors on our website, through our Greenopolis Tracking Stations and with curbside recycling programs.