Several weeks ago, I saw this on Twitter: “Use of the word sustainable is unsustainable.” Joining the ranks of green, eco-friendly and all too many other buzzwords, sustainable is quickly becoming a word I try to avoid in writing simply because it is so overused as to be nearing cliche status. Even worse, once a term becomes a buzzword it begins to invite suspicion.
Avoiding the word though, doesn’t mean I don’t support the movement that spawned the overuse of the word. My favorite businesses are those that follow practices don’t necessarily encourage growth, but that are designed in such a way the business can exist for years to come without exhausting resources. In every town there is a store or a restaurant that has been operated by the same family for generations. Those businesses were sustainable long before it was a buzzword.
The recent economic difficulties should provide a lesson in the results of un-sustainability. Constant growth of towns, of profits, of home sizes, of home prices simply cannot continue. There is a ceiling whether we choose to see it or not and when we choose to not see it, we may crash into it painfully.
Sometimes, the outlook for our society seems so grim, I cannot see a solution. Then I will read about or meet an entrepreneur or farmer or writer who is making a change in the way things are done. Perhaps they are delivering their products or services in a new, novel way or refusing to grow in order to maintain the business they built conscientiously or choosing to make less money so that they can make a difference for people instead. I see young professionals fearlessly starting their own businesses because the employment landscape doesn’t suit them.
Focusing on people who choose to improve the way business is conducted, who work to make sure resources are used responsibly, who are not afraid to make a living by approaching their chosen profession from a new angle will help the rest of us have the courage to make a difference ourselves.