Questions and Answers on
How Individuals Contribute to Sustaining Cape Cod
By Sarah James
Translated into practical terms, questions related to creating a framework for a sustainable society give rise to a set of answers that can guide us - in whatever situation we find ourselves - in changing from unsustainable to sustainable practices.
How can my household/business/town/region ...
1. Reduce its dependence upon fossil fuels, underground metals and minerals?
Examples: Conserve energy; heat/cool/power with renewable energy; walk/bike instead of drive; use rechargeable or solar-powered batteries instead of cadmium ones; avoid phosphate detergents; develop pedestrian-oriented transportation; develop wind power.
2. Reduce dependence upon chemicals and synthetic compounds?
Examples: Use non-chemical cleaners, natural building materials or materials with low/no toxicity; engage in organic gardening and farming.
3. Reduce encroachment upon nature?
Examples: Preserve open space and trees; rely on natural landscaping; reduce and/or recycle water; develop greenhouse sewage treatments; re-use existing sites and buildings before building new ones; recycle rather than use landfills and incinerators.
4. Meet human needs fairly and efficiently?
Examples: Build affordable housing for a diversity of occupants; create year-round local jobs and businesses; encourage local food production; use recycled materials before new ones; favor businesses that use by-products of others as raw materials for their own processes - an emerging practice sometimes called "industrial ecology."
Through redirecting our activities in these four ways, we can contribute to the transformation of unsustainable trends into sustainable and eventually restorative ones.
Successes and benefits
Companies such as the multi-national Interface Corporation and Skandic Hotels have reoriented their business operations toward sustainable practices using these four objectives as their guide, and saving millions of dollars in the process.
More than 60 towns and cities in Sweden - 20 percent of all municipalities in that country - have reoriented planning and operations using this framework, substantially reducing costs in areas such as energy and solid-waste management, and revitalizing depressed local economies.
We can do it
In asking questions such as those above, and devising our own strategies to move toward the answers in our households, businesses, and communities, we can begin to redirect our journey toward the right direction from whatever place we currently find ourselves in society.
In doing so, we will also be addressing the "root causes" of the trends that are converging upon us globally and locally - addressing "upstream" causes rather than arguing about downstream effects. In doing so, we will be taking the road to sustainability - a livable future.