It’s a buzzword that gets tossed around a lot these days. So I decided to find out what it actually means, cos you know, I’m a word guy, right?

Some definitions that came up when I Googled the term:

  • The characteristic of being able to coexist with another system indefinitely, without either system being damaged.
  • The use of ecosystems and their resources in a manner that satisfies current needs without compromising the needs or options of future generations.
  • Sustainable development: The concept of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

The definition that I had formed in my head using merely how I hear it used has been a fuzzy sort of ‘Living in a way that allows you to get along materially without ruining the planet in the process.’

I can’t help but notice the word ‘materially’ in my definition. I suppose it roughly corresponds to the idea of resources and ecosystems. I’ve appreciated the third definition, which does not specifically identify the material. This tells me that the concept of sustainability can apply to human relations and the spiritual as much as it does to the management of resources.

I think it is pretty clear that the way we humans live is unsustainable if we continue killing each other and creating unsafe places for children to grow up, as well as polluting the earth/creating trash/generating waste.

Making sustainable choices means considering our children and their children; making unsustainable choices means failing to consider our children and their children. So it seems to me that making sustainable choices, whether they deal with relationships or resources, the spiritual or the material, is something that God wants us to do. He wants us to honor and love our neighbors as ourselves, be they present among us or as yet unborn. He wants us to love him foremost and specifically to do so by honoring and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

When I think of it that way, it seems like making sustainable choices is more than simply doing the right thing. It becomes an act of worship, just as it is an act of worship to feed the hungry or clothe the naked or care for the sick, the widows, and the orphans.