In praise of a word: sustainability · DforDesign

Sustainability: an empty word?

Now that sustainability has become such a common term, somebody says it has in fact lost its meaning, becoming an empty buzzword used only to attract attention. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to use it anymore and we should replace it with other terms such as circular (from the circular economy).

Back to basics

Let’s begin with what the dictionary says. Sustainability is defined as

Credit: Aron Visuals

The definition of sustainability

In particular, the definition of sustainability spans 3 different dimensions: environmental, socio-ethical, and economic.

Credits (left to right): Margaret Polinder, Shane Rounce, Olena Sergienko

One step forward: regeneration

Another criticism that’s sometimes moved to the concept of sustainability is that — given the gravity of the current environmental situation — sustainability is no longer sufficient. Since we’ve been causing so much harm to the environment so far, it’s no longer enough to prevent negative impacts on the natural world. Instead, we should aim at having positive impacts on nature, helping it restore and reconstruct its balance.
In other words, we should aim at being regenerative, not just sustainable.

Credit: qinghill

Rescuing sustainability

As we’ve seen, the term sustainability has a three-fold meaning. This inherent complexity makes it harder to define something as perfectly sustainable and possibly even encourages a superficial use of this word.



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biophilic design • sustainability • designing nourishing interiors for wellbeing and the planet • projects + content •