CSI Sustainability Committee

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is sustainability?

A:  Sustainability is the recognition that the most responsible way to live is to consider the needs of both the present and the future.  It means sharing resources equitably with our children and future generations.

Q: Does living sustainably mean that I’ll have to sacrifice my quality of life?

A:  In most cases, no.  For example, a sustainable choice might be to invest more money in the insulation of your home, knowing that it will produce a net savings over the life of the home due to lower heating and cooling bills.  Living sustainably often means your quality of life improves.


Q: Does sustainability mean returning to 19th century lifestyles?

No. Sustainability means making choices about our 21st century lifestyles. In fact, advanced technology alternatives are sometimes more energy efficient or create a smaller footprint. For example compact florescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.


Q: Won’t population growth negate any savings in energy made through sustainable living?

A:  No.  Currently, the population of the U.S. is growing at a rate of less than 1.5%.  As an example, consider that the amount of artificial lighting is increasing at a rate of 6% per year.   Clearly, this is one example of a situation where sustainable practices (i.e. lower wattage light fixtures that only direct light where it is needed) would not be negated by population growth.

(Luginbuhl, Christian B., et al., "Lighting and Astronomy." Physics Today, December 2009, 32-37)

Q: Isn’t sustainability just a code word for environmentalism?

A:  No.  Sustainability acknowledges the fact that, because the Earth is finite in size, its resources are finite as well.  We can choose to use the nonrenewable resources swiftly and wastefully, or we can choose to live sustainably, minimizing our use of finite resources (like fossil fuels) and maximizing our use of renewable resources (like solar and wind energy).

Q: Can my actions make a difference?

A: Yes, most definitely. By making informed choices, you can improve the quality of your life and influence others to consider cultural practices that sustain the health of our planet. Sometimes small changes can have a big impact. For example, the typical food items in a U.S. meal have often been grown and processed using many fuel consuming inputs and processes including packaging, warehousing, and refrigeration, before traveling “an average of 1,500 miles” to reach our tables. If each of us ate one meal a week consisting of locally and organically grown meats, grains, and vegetables, “we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

(Hopp, Steven L. “Oily Food.”  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Ed. Barbara Kingsolver. (2007, 5)