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gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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I have a friend who grew up in Orange New Jersey who uses that phrase to describe words or terms that are overused in our culture.  He recently said that about the word "sustainable".    His thought is that nothing around us is sustainable, but constantly changing. 

For humans to live sustainably, the Earth's resources must be used at a rate at which they can be replenished. However, there is now clear scientific evidence that humanity is living unsustainably, and that an unprecedented collective effort is needed to return human use of natural resources to within sustainable limits.[4][5]
    from wikepedia


Although the definition of sustainable development (above), given by the Brundtland Commission, is frequently quoted,[8] it is not universally accepted and has undergone various interpretations.[9][10] Definitions of sustainability may be expressed as statements of fact, intent, or value with sustainability treated as either a "journey" or "destination."[11] Where we are now, where we need to be going, and how we are to get there are all open to interpretation[12] and will depend on the particular context under consideration.[13] This difficult mix has been described as a dialogue of values that defies consensual definition.[14] Sustainability has been regarded as both an important but unfocused concept like "liberty" or "justice"[15][16] and as a feel-good buzzword with little meaning or substance.[

  from wikepedia

I guess I am trying to sustain my life. But I'm trying to change everything else around me hopefully to the benefit of nature, but in trying to enhance one thing I am not sustaining another, such as planting figs and killing gophers.  So, what do you do that is sustainable? 

 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
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hmmmmmm I think it is a waaay over used and wrongly used word. to me sustainable means things such as.......not overgrazing....it is 'sustainable' if the plants are able to recover from the grazing browsing and regrow to feed the animals again. it is also applicable to garden/farming systems that have equal output and input so that the soil doesn't get depleted. anything nutrients you harvest in the way of crops are returned to the soil in some way. maybe the manure that comes from the animals you fed the crops to gets returned to the growing area...that sort of thing. that is what I attempt to do. i would say I am completely sustainable in anything!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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just like the perma in permaculture..nothing is forever..however..I do try to do things that will be sustained during my lifetime and maybe be there for the lives to come after mine..

My most sustainable contributions would be my trees..as I plant most of them from small seedlings or seeds..of some sort..they will be growing during my entire lifetime, unless of course they meet an untimely end..and in several years they are not only growing and being sustained, but are having children..which we are removing and sending on their merry ways to neighbors and friends.

Then of course there are the understory trees which are slightly less sustainable, as their lifetimes are shorter than the canopy layer, such as fruit and nut trees, but they do help to sustain LIFE more than the canopy trees do so they are somewhat sustainable and semipermanent.

Following them are the shrub layers..which if properly revived, can go on for pretty much our lifetime and those of our children. They can be quite sustaineable and can sustain a lot of life by using a highly diverse number of species...so i tend to collect shrubs as well as trees, for sustainability of my gardens.

Feeding the soil by allowing most of the droppages of leaves also sustains their fertility, and adding other nutrients back to the soil when possible..follows in sustaining the trees and shrubs.

I have an overabundance of sustainable perennials..they need to be well managed, but they always produce babies for me that can be added to other peoples properties, whether seeds or roots, and many of them provide human or animal food. Every year there are MORE perennials rather than fewer, so they are very sustainable. Occasionally there are some annuals brought onto the property that are somewhat sustainable, if they are heirloom and allowed to produce seed that is saved, but i tend to avoid annuals other than some seasonal food crops for the simple fact that they are NOT sustainable..I always lean toward things that will grow back year after  year without relanting.  I consider sustainability, even if it is only semipermanent, a key to everything I attempt to do on our property.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
master steward
Posts: 4145
Location: Missoula, MT
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books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
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gary wrote:
...sustainable...a feel-good buzzword with little meaning or substance.....


This is SO true! Wow. And true of words like "green" "eco" and more. These words are nebulous, vague and used as a marketing tool without much meaning. We have "green-washing" all around us these days, don't we?

gary wrote:
So, what do you do that is sustainable?


Do you mean, what do we do that has little meaning or substance? 

One thing I continue struggle with is what words to use to describe the Eco Events calendar I keep. That's why the website is www.jocelynsevents.com, because so many of the words are so played out that nothing seemed genuine enough.

In practical terms, I live in a condo, which has a low footprint in some ways, and I take as many measures as I can to buy only sustainably grown food, grow food on my patio, use a worm bin, line dry my clothes, reuse or re-purpose what I can, and more. Plus, I've even been attempting to lead some changes for more sustainable practices with my condo association, which is 203 households. This could take some time and a LOT of diligence though the net effect would be huge.
 
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