Defining Sustainability

 

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In the 1940s, Aldo Leopold, the Wisconsin naturalist, defined planetary health as the capacity for self renewal. Sustainability wasn’t the buzz word then that it is now, but his definition of planetary health is the best I have seen for what we call sustainability. Think of self-renewal as a lens through which to look at the world. What I like about Leopold’s definition, besides its simplicity, are the implications, and I see three.

1) This definition is comprehensive: it applies to great and small, to natural systems like the oceans and to individual fish, plants, and animals of all kinds, including humans.

2) This definition shows the interconnection of all things. As John Muir remarked, “When you tug on one thing in Nature, you find it’s attached to the rest of the world.”

3)  It’s perpetual, never-ending. Continual self-renewal is the only way to guarantee a livable world for future generations.

What does this mean in practical terms? After attending a workshop in 1999 to learn about The Natural Step, a science-based framework for thinking about sustainability, I came away shaken by how unsustainable I and my business were, while we thought we were being good to the earth. I determined my goal both personally and at Sokol Blosser would be to seek to be sustainable in all parts of our operation. This involved looking at how we farmed, the products we used, our packaging, recycling of waste, building materials, who we chose to do business with, even what we carried in the tasting room. It wasn’t easy and we’re still working on it.

If living more sustainably is on your mind, check out The Natural Step website: www.thenaturalstep.org

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