Q: So what is sustainability?

At Urban Green Lab, we use the definition of “just sustainability” to guide our work:

Just Sustainability

The triple bottom line, or the 3 P’s, is a visualization of what sustainability can look like in the business world, and in our own lives.

Oftentimes when we hear the term “bottom line” we know the subject of conversation is money. However, is money really the most important factor in decision making? Why is the economy more important than the success of society or the health of our environment?

In sustainability, we know that money is not the most important factor. Sustainability exists at the intersection of society, the environment, and the economy, or people, planet, profit. Next time you’re facing a decision ask yourself: Is this harmful towards the planet? Will this hurt society? Is it damaging financially? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s a good idea to reconsider your decision.

Triple Bottom Line UGL

Another example of the triple bottom line can be seen through the Nested Model. This diagram shows that the health of the economy is reliant on the success of society and health of society is reliant on the success of our environment. Likewise, we know that when our planet suffers, our people will also which will ultimately harm our economy.

Nested Model High Res

The main theme of sustainability is interconnectedness.

Dr. MLK Quote

Q: What is climate change?

Climate change refers to an impactful change to the earth’s regular climate patterns due to human activity. There are many contributors to climate change but mainly it is due to our destruction of natural resources and the release of excess greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

The greenhouse gas effect is naturally occurring and super important - it’s what captures the sun’s warmth and helps sustain regulated temperatures. However, we know too much of a good thing is usually harmful and that goes for greenhouse gases as well. When we do things like put food in the landfill and build giant fossil fuel burning machines like planes and power plants, we release so many of these greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it traps too much of the sun’s warmth. This causes the globe to warm.

We have noticed this pattern of warming since the mid 19th century when the Industrial Revolution began. Since then, it has only gotten worse. Some of the negative effects of climate change that we witness regularly are rising ocean levels, because as the water warms its molecules spread apart and the ocean essentially gets larger, stronger and more frequent natural disasters, and mass extinction of essential plant and animal species.

Q: But it’s cold outside, does that mean climate change isn’t happening?

When you experience the cold, you are referring to the weather. Weather and climate are two different things and should not be used interchangeably. Climate refers to patterns observed over a long period of time. Weather describes what we are experiencing right now. Therefore, just because you experience a cold day in the winter, we know that climate change is still happening due to scientists observing and measuring patterns. In fact, 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Q: So what does sustainable living have to do with climate change?

Sustainable living means looking through a lens of sustainability (using the triple bottom line) and making decisions that will benefit our environment and society. Living sustainably is not the only solution to climate change but it is something each of us can do to bring awareness to this issue and help slow climate change and that’s what Urban Green Lab wants Nashville to know! When we live sustainably, it benefits the people in our community, our local economy, and our planet.

Q: Will recycling solve all of the Earth’s problems?

Recycling is important BUT it is at the very bottom of every list of helpful things you can do for the planet. Remember that reducing and reusing comes before recycling. Additionally, sustainability is not just about our waste issue! It’s also about clean water, clean air, safe public transportation, green energy, and so much more!

Q: I can’t just change everything in my life...this seems hard.

We don’t want you to change everything all at once! Remember, sustainability is also about meeting the needs of people. When we become aware of all of these problems, most of us rush to make too many changes at once and then we get overwhelmed and then we quit (think of most crash diets).

Making any changes to your lifestyle is HARD. So pick one. Find something you care about and change that one thing, tell all your friends about it, educate your family. The ripple effect you’ll feel from that one change will be so incredibly rewarding.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some easy, small changes you can make to contribute to positive change.

Q: How does Urban Green Lab teach communities how to live more sustainably?

Urban Green Lab is special because we are interested in systemic change, which means we want to make learning about sustainable living a normal part of everyday life, in our classrooms, households, and workplaces. To do that, we focus on community organizations, and help them organize green teams, train their co-workers and families, and connect them to services that make a difference.

Systemic Change

Q: That doesn’t seem so hard. How can I get involved in what you do in Nashville?

We would love for you to get involved in one of Urban Green Lab’s many programs. Click on the below links to learn more:

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