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Greening Government
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TOPIC: Getting Sustainability right

Re: Getting Sustainability right 2 years, 5 months ago #16

Thank you for posting the link to that article in The Independent.  The point I wanted to make about this topic, which the article links in with, is that we can never fully embed a concept into our policy and decision making if we haven't properly defined what it is we are trying to embed.  At the moment, the unofficially adopted understanding of sustainable development is that we must ensure environmental considerations are factored in to policies and processes alongside economic and social ones.  Whilst this is infinitely preferable to not doing so, it is insufficient to ensure the ultimate objective that we are interested in - safeguarding the future of the earth and all life upon it.  Ensuring that we uphold this objective requires us to understand the level of resource use and human impact that the earth's ecological systems can support.  It's the old 'limits' argument that has become so unpopular due to our quest for exponential 'growth'.  The article from the Independent highlights the prevailing attitude perfectly - stating that humans will find a way in the long term, through technology, to overcome the impending shortages in freshwater supplies.  This 'technology will always save us' attitude is dangerous speculation - technology does help us to address many problems, but to hypothesise about its ability to conquer limits to what the natural world can support and sustain, in global terms, is to risk the future of humankind on what is at best sheer optimism.  Technology has been helping us for many years, and yet in macro terms, the state of the planet has never been more precarious.  Something in the rationality of this approach rapidly falls down on a close examination.

In order to 'get sustainability right', we need to recognise that long term economic and social activity, and human well being, ultimately depend on one factor alone - the health of our ecological systems.  If they break down, so will we.  Bar living in an artificial 'Wall-e' type of world with manufactured air, water and food while what is left of planet earth lies smouldering beneath us.  Such a scenario may seem laughable at present, but given the current state of environmental pressures and with global population predicted to rise by a third in the next 40 years, it is a prospect that we can't afford to dismiss on the untested assumption that 'technology will save us'.

To switch from talking about what we don't need to what we do need, the essentials are as follows:

- a definition of sustainable development based on scientific understanding of what the planet and her systems can support (we already have this).  This gives us the 'limits' within which we need to operate, factoring in current and future technological potential.

- for this definition of sustainable development to quite simply guide everything we do - from planning policy to our economic agenda, and decision making at every level.

Sounds simple, and on an intellectual level, it is.  In practical terms, it will require huge shifts in attitudes and values, and above all, an end to arrogance about humans' ability to 'conquer' nature and her constraints towards a deeper sense of respect and understanding.

Re: Getting Sustainability right 2 years, 5 months ago #17

"Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987 is as good a definition as any I think.

Certainly as the 'mission statement' it works although it then needs a series of indicators and actions to help bring it to life. From the construction products area where I work, the issue of balancing impacts from manufacturing against benefits in use is constant.

See www.constructionproducts-sustainability....t-is-sustainability/ for further information. Your views on the website would be welcomed as well as suggestions for further areas to cover.

Re: Getting Sustainability right 2 years, 4 months ago #18

One of the most effective ways to influence this agenda is through influencing behavior and education. We hold regular staff meetings to highlight different issues. All we are doing is asking everybody to behave as they behave at home. An awareness campaign can reduce our usage by between 10 and 20%.

Reducing water consumption to meet new targets! 2 years, 3 months ago #19

Has anyone got any ideas on how to reduce their water consumption? What examples are there out there, we understand how beneficial reductions in water consumption can be on costs and increasing efficiency, but we want to know what other public and private bodies are doing on this issue?
Last Edit: 2 years, 3 months ago by Scott Buckler.

Re: Reducing water consumption to meet new targets! 2 years, 3 months ago #20

Good question Chris, water is one of the most useful and low cost ways of saving energy and reducing costs, so are there any best- practice examples from Councils or Companies ?

Re: Reducing water consumption to meet new targets! 2 years, 2 months ago #21

Hi Chris- we have installed a rainwater harvesting system here at Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust across 6 buildings. This is excellent in terms of breeam points, though is a slow burner in terms of payback, though it is useful to remember that this technology is in it's infancy and when solar pv was first introduced the payback took 20 years as opposed to 7 nowadays.
Last Edit: 2 years, 2 months ago by Matthew Abbott.

Re: Reducing water consumption to meet new targets! 2 years, 2 months ago #22

Chris, We areCH2M HILL, a leader in consulting, design, design-build, operations, and programme management. We provide independent sustainability advice to a range of private and public sector organisations. We are also a partner with GovToday and I gave a Masterclass in their recent conference and exhibition 'Greening Government 2011'. Until recently I was Head of Sustainability for the ODA Delivery Partner. As you will know, there were a range of sustainability targets for the Olympic Park, which my team were responsible for delivering. On the water front we had to reduce demand by 40% for venues and irrigation and by 20% for residential buildings. We did this with a 2-stage strategy; 1) demand reduction, including water efficient fittings and efficiencies in cleaning, catering, etc.; 2) alternative sources for non-potable water use and water conservation measures which included rainwater harvesting, grey- and black-water use. While this is new-build, many of the solutions are equally applicable, and cost effective, for existing properties. I would be happy to discuss in greater detail this and other projects where we have successfully implemented savings, not just for water but also carbon, waste, materials, biodiversity, etc.
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