Since the late 1980s, sustainability has become an unavoidable part of any discussion on economic planning and development, whether on the local, regional, or global level. It emerged from the understanding that the natural limits of our environment demanded adaptation on the part of economic development, which impacted it so directly. Gradually, the term broadened to embody a systems perspective where the balancing of social, economic, environmental, and other spheres was necessary for meeting human needs today and into the future.

The challenges for LE to implement sustainable solutions are considerable. It might seem inevitable that the intense utilization of local resources in self-reliant economies would place further burdens on the environment. However, through collective efforts, communities can build their economies in a way that reduces their carbon footprint and conserves natural resources. There are numerous effective strategies for achieving ecologically sound development, including the use of clean energy, land conservation, recycling, etc. And if enough localities embrace this approach, then their impact will be felt on the regional levels and beyond.

While developing an eco-friendly economy is a great accomplishment, the systems approach of sustainability also includes social objectives, such as increases in good, meaningful jobs and improving the quality of life for all. Economic democracy plays an important role here because local people have a unique understanding of the complexity of their natural, built, and human systems. Their commitment to triple bottom-line thinking comes naturally as they are directly connected to the fate of their community and environment. Conscious of how these different systems can mutually support each other, communities will build successful economies that will benefit their current and future residents.


Tags: sustainability, triple bottom-line, ecology, environmentalism, systems thinking