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Economic Development Articles

1/1/2022 - What is Sustainability?

The question often asked of those of us working on Southbury’s efforts to become a Sustainable CT town is - what does it mean to be ‘sustainable’? Sustainability is a buzz word; a catch-all phrase by many today that seems to encompass a wide variety of ambitious goals and community-mindedness, but is little understood. Let’s take a stab at it.

Sustainability is a broad term that has many definitions. Simply put, sustainability refers to the maintenance of natural resources in order to preserve ecological balance. It also describes a broader effort to meet our environmental, economic, and social needs without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own.

It might seem all-encompassing, but according to the UN World Commission on Environment and Development1, it’s mainly about the three e’s: environment, economy and equity. By pursuing environmental health, economic vitality, and social equity today, we can make choices that will maintain our communities for the future.

Sustainability is an essential part of creating communities that thrive and are resilient because it challenges us to question our collective priorities. Most of us understand the concepts of finite resources when it comes to food or money in our own lives, but we have trouble seeing resource depletion on a larger scale.

Sustainability is about knowing that the Earth’s natural, economic, and social resources are finite, and making it a priority to conserve them. To do that we must remain informed about what’s going on in the world, while taking the necessary action steps within our own community to prioritize its permanence.

Sustainability is a term coined to expand upon ‘environmentalism,’ a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through political, economic, and social policies2. Sustainability went further, suggesting that the environment is a part of a larger system of balance, which involves future generations.

Next month we’ll look at sustainability in action; putting it into practice.

For info on the town’s efforts visit:

For information on the state program go to:


  1. “Report of the World Commission on Environmental and Development: Our Common Future”

Kevin Bielmeier
Economic Development Director
Town of Southbury
(203) 262-0683

[This article first appeared in Southbury Neighbors magazine.]