Good question, glad you asked. It means different things to different people, here’s what it means for me.
Sustainability is about making better use of natural resources in ways that reduce our impact on the natural environment, on our societies, and on each other. It is the vision that minor changes in routine behavior can considerably increase the benefit derived from any given resource, be it petroleum, aluminum, soy beans, or paper. It is the understanding that rethinking our consumption decisions can save money, create jobs and improve the lives of people.
This involves an increased awareness about the routine things we take for granted: the food we eat and how it gets produced, the trash that’s removed from our lives and where it goes, the energy that powers the lights and televisions we turn on, the water we use for drinking and bathing.
Encouraging sustainability requires reinforcing the idea that wasteful consumption *costs money* and rejecting the idea that changing our behavior will require us to give up the things we love to do. It is not about putting nature or polar bears or spotted owls above human beings, it’s about rethinking consumption decisions so we can focus more on people.
To cite one of the most elegant descriptions I’ve heard to date, sustainability is about seeing the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated things.