A practical definition of sustainability is “development that meets the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition was developed in 1983, by the World Commission on Environment and Development, commonly known as the Bruntland Commission. The central idea that our resources are finite and the rate and way in which we use them must be altered has held strong through the various interpretations.
Often, it is easier to define sustainability by considering first the types of resources we have and then determining what to do with them. Every action we take has a consequence and affects some other aspect of life in some way. We can see our situation on Earth affecting three different aspects of life: the natural environment, society (people’s lives) and the economy. If we imagine that every decision we make regarding development affects each of these parts of life in different ways, our goal must be to keep these in equilibrium. In other words, our most sustainable solutions and choices will be those which do not detrimentally affect the natural environment, society or the economy unequally.
The term “environmental sustainability” refers to the effort to limit the ecological footprint (or environmental impact) of a individual, group, business, school or any other entity. These pursuits would of course be considered with the economic and social implications of any action as well.