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Sustainability is …

In today’s socially conscious world, we’re gaining a greater and greater understanding of how to responsibly help the less privileged world—be it in health care, agriculture, economics or otherwise. We’re no longer just asking, “what needs to be done,” but we’re examining how things can be done to have a lasting and meaningful impact. However, these days “sustainability” and “sustainable” are buzz words that seem to be thrown around haphazardly.

So we’re going to throw it out there:

  • What is “sustainability?”
  • How can we tell if our efforts are leading to it?
  • How do we know when we’ve accomplished it?
  • What are some good examples and why?

What do you think? What’s your experience? Are these questions even answerable?

7 Responses

  1. Justin Mool

    I’ll get things started …

    Sustainability is:
    * Culturally appropriate
    * Incorporates the core values of the community so there is true ownership
    * Means that in an ideal world, if all goes according to plan, the aid organization or whatever will become obsolete / no longer needed

  2. Jane

    When talking about Grounds for Health – I think sustainability refers to making a lasting impact on the health of women at origin, through:
    -transfer of knowledge
    -personal empowerment
    -community buy-in
    -support from the local Ministry of Health
    -institutionalization of routine screenings and treatment services

  3. Sustainability is:
    Not one size fits all – it’s specific to the place and people involved.
    True to the mission but open to the adjustments that are required to make it work.
    Only realized when it is a shared goal.

  4. Sustainability in coffee must be contextualized
    ^ Quality of product and relationship come first:
    (1) with the earth
    (2) farmer with workers
    (3) farmer with consumer
    ^ Good stewards of the earth.
    ^ Organic principles practiced w/or w/o certification
    ^ Pulped water is recycled; not reintroduced to source
    ^ Workers’ are treated with dignity
    ^ Children are schooled, place appropriate
    ^ Basic health care through community based physician extenders
    ^ Grower encourages self-initiatives in off-season with funds for micro-loans
    ^ Farmer works to “brand” coffee for purpose of consumer education with verified set-asides for micro-loans

  5. Lynne

    An effort is sustainable when it can, and will, continue on its own momentum. This happens when the value of the initiative incorporates the values of the beneficiaries, and other stakeholders who will help maintain momentum. This doesn’t mean that everything can be funded on its own, but rather systems are in place that include ways of raising funds, and all other resources needed.

  6. Dan Cox

    Sustainablity in it’s rawest form, is a system that continues to be self perpetuating. However in today’s coffee world I think it should include social, economic, cultural,& environmental standards. It starts at the producers level and then transcends to the consumer level. It should also include constant improvement and change for the better.

    Dan Cox

  7. Tracy Ging

    The truest definition of sustainability implies the capacity to endure, but when someone once asserted, in some presentation or another, that coffee is sustainable because it endures, I stopped using the word sustainability. To me, endurance isn’t the issue; it’s about collective benefit–can businesses profit, people progress, and the land thrive under the existing system?

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