Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Putting the boot in: sustainability

As I stood in the shoe repair shop on Saturday I realised that my boots are not sustainable. They were not sustainable from the moment I bought them, even though I love them to bits. Their total lack of sustainability comes from them requiring heeling every three or four weeks. You would have thought after the years I have been taking them to be heeled it might have dawned on me how impractical the boots were, but it did not. I have been walking around in un-sustainable boots.

Sustainability is being able to keep something in balance for the long term. When something is out of balance, sooner or later something will happen to attempt to regain the balance: just as we have seen with inflated consumer spending, the recent financial crisis and subsequent recession. As we are increasingly recognising the importance of climate change, the fragility of our environment, and how to generate clean energy, sustainability is a word we need to take more notice of.

My boots made me think of my other practices that are not particularly sustainable: using the printer a little more often than I should, trying the replicate the British Library in my office, etc. etc. There are more, but I will spare my (and your) blushes.

I doubt that I am the only person who is recognising that sustainability and balance are more important to us than ever before. I think sustainability is an idea whose time has come, not only in taking control of the planet’s future, but in taking control of our own personal and business future.

As consumers we have drastically cut our spending and reassessed priorities. As businesses we are digging in, cutting back and working hard to survive during difficult times. As societies we have become more aware of cause and effect, and thanks to the state of the economy we are being given long enough to reflect on sustainability for lasting changes to be made.

Sustainability is not always a simple concept – there is plenty of opportunity to push problems around. But it is a concept that is worthy of a great deal more thought than we have given it in the past, whatever the economy is doing.

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