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Three pillars of sustainability
  • Environmental, social, and economic are the three pillars of sustainability, with six different overarching topics in each pillar.

A sustainable approach is a systems-based approach that links interactions among environmental, social, and economic pillars to better comprehend the effects of our actions. Within each of the three pillars of sustainability there are six different overarching topics.

Topics to support the Environmental pillar of sustainability:

  1. Ecosystem preservation: Protect, support, and restore the health of crucial natural habitats and ecosystems.
    1. Example: Progressive nutrient management techniques (i.e., green infrastructure and agriculture)
  2. Green engineering and chemistry: Outline chemical products and processes to remove toxic hazards, reuse or recycle chemicals, and reduce entire lifecycle costs.
    1. Example: Redesigning products to require coatings with low or zero toxics
  3. Air quality: Meet and maintain air-quality standards and lower the risks associated with toxic air pollutants.
    1. Example: Investigate reduction strategies for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  4. Water quality: Lessen exposure to contaminants in water systems and infrastructure (including source water protection), retrofit aging systems, and install next generation treatment technologies and approaches.
    1. Example: Purpose-driven water reuse and treatment technologies
  5. Stressors: Lessen impacts by stressors (e.g., pollutants, GHG emissions, genetically modified organisms) to the ecosystem and at-risk populations.
    1. Example: Determine fate of altered nanoparticles from process discharges
  6. Resource integrity: Lessen negative effects by reducing waste generation to prevent accidental release and associated cleanup.
    1. Example: Take advantage of new technologies and processes to prevent environmental effects

Topics to support the Social pillar of sustainability:

  1. Environmental justice: Protect the health of communities over-burdened by pollution by enabling them to better their health and environment.
    1. Example: Initiate partnerships with local, state, tribal, and federal organizations to accomplish healthy and sustainable communities
  2. Human health: Protect, maintain, and improve human health.
    1. Example: Use models to predict toxicological impacts of products
  3. Participation: Use open and clear processes that engage applicable stakeholders.
    1. Example: Create a database of reduced-risk pesticides for regularly used products
  4. Education: Enhance sustainability education of the general public, stakeholders, and possibly affected groups.
    1. Example: Provide educational material to students and communities to learn about sustainability
  5. Resource security: Protect, upkeep, and restore access to principal resources (e.g., water, food, land, and energy) for present and future generations.
    1. Example: Examine impact of dispersants/oil combination on natural waterways
  6. Sustainable communities: Encourage the development, planning, building, or modification of communities to advance sustainable living.
    1. Example: Landscape with native plant species

Topics to support the Economic pillar of sustainability:

  1. Jobs: Improve and maintain present and future jobs.
    1. Example: Encourage job creation through introduction of progressive technologies and practices that give multiple advantages to communities and the environment
  2. Incentives: Encourage incentives that work with human nature to promote sustainable practices.
    1. Example: Collaborative urban stormwater management approaches
  3. Supply and demand: Encourage informed accounting and market practices to advocate for environmental health and social prosperity.
    1. Example: Take into consideration the lifecycle cost and benefit for each raw material used in product design
  4. Natural resource accounting: Strengthen understanding and quantification of ecosystem impacts in cost-benefit analyses.
    1. Example: Conduct sustainability assessments
  5. Costs: Positively influence costs of processes, services, and products throughout the entire lifecycle.
    1. Example: Aim to create waste-free processes, removing the need for regulation, treatment, and disposal costs throughout systems
  6. Prices: Encourage cost structures that lower risk for innovative technologies.
    1. Example: Speed innovative technologies and methods to the market through presentation and testing with community partners