Sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line

Recently, my dad asked me what sustainability meant. I said, “It means different things to different people, but to me it’s about energy and water efficiency, reuse/recycling, and generally leaving a small footprint on the earth.” That definition worked for my dad, but the more I thought about it, I realized my personal definition needed to be broader.

So I turned to the Triple Bottom Line definition: People, Planet, Profit, with each element carrying the same amount of weight. Profit doesn’t trump People, People don’t trump the Planet, and Profit is a valid concept. It’s about balance. Anybody who says economic development isn’t compatible with sustainability is making a false argument. He/she is embracing the Profit category while ignoring the other two. Likewise, when someone supports the good of the Planet while ignoring the need for employment opportunities that lift people out of poverty, he/she needs a reality check. If we willingly ignore the health of the natural world while chasing profits and fame, we are trashing our own proverbial living room.

Balance isn’t always easy to achieve, but it is vital. I’m involved in several sustainability efforts, both in my public and private life. I’m committed to sustainability, but I’m also committed to the big picture: what actions/initiatives/decisions move all of us closer to that People, Planet, and Profit balance that provides the best outcome?

Whether it’s the construction of a new stadium (, the establishment of permanent recycling centers for hazardous household waste (, or river cleanups (, our daily lives offer endless opportunities.

So, what are you doing to live a more sustainable life?

What would you like to do?

For more information about the Triple Bottom Line approach, check out these links:


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