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What is Sustainability?

At the University of Houston, sustainability involves social, environmental and economic dimensions applied to on-campus initiatives. Our goal at the Office of Sustainability is to educate campus and community members about the importance of thinking and acting sustainably so that we can use resources responsibly while improving the livelihood of present and future generations. Sustainability is a transition from short-term thinking to long-term seeing. It’s a shift in perspective where environmental, social and economic challenges are no longer viewed as separate and competing, but rather interconnected and complementary.

The past University of Houston Sustainability Committee developed the following definition: Sustainability is the capacity to meet the interconnected social, environmental and economic challenges of the present and enable future generations to thrive.

According to the EPA, sustainability is based on this principle that everything we need for our survival and well-being depends—either directly or indirectly—on our natural environment. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have—and will continue to have—the water, materials and resources to protect human health and our environment.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs. - Our Common Future, the Brundtland Report, the Brandt Commission

Sustainability envisions the enduring prosperity of ALL living things. - The American Institute of Architects

Sustainability is a characteristic of natural and human systems that embodies the possibility of flourishing forever. Environmental Stewardship is an ethic and practice of shared responsibility for environmental quality; the best means of achieving the environmental component of sustainability. - The National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT)

A sustainable world is one in which human needs are met without harm to the natural environment and without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. - The National Science Foundation (NSF)

In terms of missions and needed actions, the United Nations has also proposed these sustainable development goals for all countries:

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