Hitting Sustainability Dead Center

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     We all have an idea of what sustainability is.  Generally, sustainability refers to the use of any resource in such a way that the resource will remain available in perpetuity.  While this concept is easy enough to grasp, there are subtleties of interpretation that can create divisions to our sustainable goals.  Are our energy sources sustainable?  Are our food sources sustainable?  Is a business sustainable?  Is a lifestyle sustainable?  Sustainability can be analyzed on a small scale where we examine our personal choices, and how those choices may affect our future.  It can also be applied community wide as we create businesses and organizations that work together; creating a better (or worse) place for our children.  And larger still, issues of sustainability can operate on a world-wide scale over generations.  When framed from this perspective, we see that sustainability needs to apply to the world as a whole, the community, as well as the individual.  Without hitting all aspects of sustainability, we won’t be having the greatest impact.

     A great example of sustainable programs that hit all three aspects of sustainable reach comes from GreenEmpowerment, a non-profit from Portland, Oregon.  Green Empowerment works with communities around the globe to create solutions that not only benefit individuals by solving every day problems, but also reduce humanity’s carbon footprint by being green powered.  For example, in 2015 Green Empowerment worked to install over 20 water systems in the Philippines.  Included in these water systems are 20 ram pumps which require zero electricity to operate.  These systems achieve all three factors of sustainability by freeing up the time of individuals who would have otherwise been hauling water, providing reliable and safe drinking water to a community, and not contributing to global emissions through the use of pumps that use fossil fuels.

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     It is important that we look for ways that our lives can be sustainable, this means freeing up time and being efficient with our pursuits.  It is also important that our communities are looking to solve problems that will ensure our way of life can continue.  But some of the most difficult choices can come when we must think about the sustainability of our world.  Sometimes this means making choices that don’t bring us the most immediate benefit.  Green Empowerment is helping communities and their members make choices that not only benefit in the short term, but the long term as well.