Beyond Green: The Story of Sustainability
Jul 21, 2020 -
How do you picture sustainability? Google has 678 million search results on that word. Most of the images are green. We’re talking plants, earth, even green light bulbs. It’s like someone placed one of those crazy photo filters on the word and everything appears in shades of green. Drives me crazy.
That environmental imagery certainly reflects an important part of the sustainability conversation, but it doesn’t represent the entire idea. It’s like having a story with nothing but the main character. No plot, no supporting characters—nothing. Sounds kinda boring, right? Even if this character has a good heart and does kind things, the story just isn’t interesting. Something’s missing.
To benefit from the joy of a story, you must understand the entire story. Every writer learns early on the essential elements of a story: the characters, the setting, and the plot.
Sustainability is the same way. You must understand all three elements of sustainability to fully immerse yourself in the story of sustainability.
You probably know the main character. She’s Environmental Stewardship. Best friend of Mother Nature. Or maybe she’s Mother Nature’s daughter. Either way, they’re tight. Environmental Stewardship is out to conserve and protect the natural world and all that’s in it. She must have tiny feet because everyone says her footprint is small. She does things like reducing waste, recycling, using energy and water wisely. She never litters or pollutes. She drives an electric car, has solar panels on her tiny house, and grows an organic garden. Get the picture?
Environmental Stewardship lives in the community of Social Responsibility. This is a place of love and respect, diversity and inclusion, and fair and equal treatment. All residents of Social Responsibility take care of each other. They shop local, have a great healthcare system, and think safety first. Their jobs pay a living wage. Their companies ensure workers are treated fairly and have the highest ethical standards. This community provides resources for physical, mental, and social well-being to all its residents. There are a lot of people trying to get into Social Responsibility.
Economic Impact is the plot of our sustainability story. What are Environmental Stewardship and the community of Social Responsibility trying to accomplish? Essentially, they work together to ensure there are enough resources available to meet everyone’s needs and those resources are distributed fairly. We’re talking natural resources like land, water, minerals, food, wildlife, and plants. And they must be clean and healthy. We’re also talking financial resources (money) and the necessary material things in life like safe housing and clothing. This plot can feel overwhelming, so I’ll share the CliffsNote with you: use your time, talent, and treasure to do good.
How does the story end? Well, it doesn’t! That’s the whole point. By its very definition, the story of sustainability is must continue. We’re talking infinity.
Future generations help the story evolve. Ever play “Pass the Story”? This is the game when someone starts a story and then passes a ball to the next person. That person adds a little to the story and passes the ball to someone else. You just keep passing the ball and the story gets better and better. That’s exactly how the story of sustainability works.
So, turn off your green filter, pick up the ball, and continue the sustainability story. Hang out with Environmental Stewardship in the community of Social Responsibility and use your time, talent, and treasure to do good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SUSTAINABILITY COUNCIL CHAIR AND VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
Sue Bruning is Vice President of Marketing & Communications with Cascade Environmental and serves as Chair of Cascade’s Sustainability Council. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Health from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from California State University Long Beach. Sue has over twenty years’ experience in the environmental services industry. She is certified in the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Process and has been helping companies share their sustainability journey for more than ten years. Connect with Sue via LinkedIn.