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Green vs. Sustainable

By on February 14th, 2011

Over at our brother blog Digital Nirvana, Phil Riebel has an excellent post in which he identifies the difference between “green” and “sustainable”:

Sustainability includes three elements, or three “pillars”: environmental responsibility, social responsibility and financial responsibility.  Sustainability takes into account the realities of our economy and our society.  In other words, it means that organizations or individuals should operate in a financially sound framework but also be socially and financially responsible in their activities and operations.

Think of the “environment” or being “green” as just one of the three pillars, and don’t dismiss the other two.

It’s common to conflate “environmental sustainability” with general “sustainability,” and while here at Going Green we tend to focus on that one pillar, we (the royal we) should make a conscious effort not to ignore 2/3 of the definition of sustainability.

  1. 5 Responses to “Green vs. Sustainable”

  2. By Tom Tozier on Feb 15, 2011 | Reply

    Thank you for bringing attention to the important distinction between “Sustainability” and “being green” (environmental sustainability). General sustainability (not to be confused with general relativity) really is three distinct areas, social, economic and environment working together in balance. For example if a product can be manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner, without costing more to produce and without negatively impacting the community (low wages for employees, for instance) it can be said that the item is truly sustainable.

    In my humble opinion, in this day, “being green” has become an almost expected aspect of business, which can be both beneficial and detrimental. If promoted correctly it can create a very positive attitude about a business. If it is not substantial enough it can be viewed as “green washing”. And lest we forget the new consumer term; “green fatigue” which describes the customer that is just tired of hearing about how green a business is anyway!

    My point here is that I think we are seeing the standards rise concerning sustainability and it’s perception in the world. Taking the extra steps towards more total sustainable business practice and the awareness of the larger encompassing definition of sustainability is going to be required by printers big and small, commercial and internal. Incorporating those three pillars wherever possible is becoming a need, and as Marthat Stewart might say, “It’s a good thing.”

  3. By John Flood on Feb 18, 2011 | Reply

    I really like the Content of your Blog on Going Green. I am an engineer who works with corporations to help them go green by converting to solar and wind energy. I know what it takes to create an alternative energy plan that works, and I know how to implement those plans. As an engineer who works in the realm of alternative energy, there is one thing that often surprises me.The range of quality of information on how to go green is simply astounding. At least once a week, someone will ask me how they can learn how to convert their home, and answering that question can be difficult.
    I have some more options that I have reviewed:

  4. By Pat Berger on Feb 21, 2011 | Reply

    Hi John

    Is there any type of renewable alternative energy sources that can stand on their own and give a payback in less than 10 years without any government subsidies?

  5. By Elaine Neiss on Feb 22, 2011 | Reply

    You make and excellent point on the differences between green and sustainable. It’s certainly an ongoing effort to continually improve, increase awareness amongst staff and customers and seek out new methods. Enjoy reading “Going Green” and have found it very helpful.

  6. By Sujith.G.S on May 11, 2011 | Reply

    Today, ‘green’ has become a fashion statement of sorts. People talk about green buildings without having any real idea what true sustainability is. To a large extent, the green rating system for buildings is very misleading. True it has got its benefits but the loopholes are many. What is the point of a system where almost all conventional building materials are eligible for green points, thereby ending up as a fancy tag instead of acheiving real change?
    The word ‘Green’ is being routinely abused to such an extent that it is almost a justification. If we are to let this Green movement carry on like this, the issues related to true sustainability will be lost behind all the din.