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What is Sustainability?

  • On  February 24, 2017 in |
  • General

You might hear this term a lot these days, but what does it mean? To sustain means to endure. Since the 1980s, sustainability more commonly references human’s sustainability of planet Earth. This reflects our long-term viability, well-being and depends on us being stewards of our environment and our natural resources. The main components of sustainability are environmental, social and economic demands. Managing the environmental and social impacts (cost, risks and benefits) of an organization is integral to the future success of any entity (corporation, non-profit or a local government). This is often called the triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental performance), or the three pillars of sustainability.


Today, Ohio businesses and communities are adopting sustainability practices and attaining concrete results. They are linking environmental performance and social responsibility to financial outcomes. Good business practices are being re-defined as merging economic performance with common sense environmental concerns and social accountability, in an integrated way. Two examples of Ohio entities practicing sustainability are:

Denison University, Granville, Ohio.

  • Set up a revolving loan fund of $500,000 for environmental stewardship improvements.
  • Require new buildings to comply with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
  • Reduce electricity use by upgrading HVAC systems.
  • Reuse food service containers.
  • Have a food donation network.
  • Compost on campus.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Recycle waste grain feedstock (620,000 tons per year) for animal feed, soil amendment or flavoring in special products.
  • Retrofit their century-old buildings with a solar thermal system, radiant heat floors and a straw bale wall.
  • Operate The Fatty Wagon, a multi-passenger van and shuttle service that runs on vegetable oil produced in the brewpub.
  • Sponsor the annual Burning River Fest, focusing on protecting Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.

Ohio EPA has recognized these organizations through the Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) Program for their use of sustainability to drive operations. In future newsletter articles, we will highlight tools and resources available to help organizations pursue sustainability. We will also explore how some companies have improved their environmental performance while providing financial paybacks and social benefits. Ohio EPA’s E3 Program has a four- level approach to provide recognition to Ohio organizations completing environmentally beneficial activities. If your organization is interested in being recognized by the E3 program, contact DEFA at 1-800-329-7518 or visit the E3 website for more information.