Sustainable development was coined in 1987 by the Bruntland Commission, where they defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Since then, the theory of sustainable development has expanded enormously and these ideas have been used around the world. The need for more sustainable development is important, as many of the planet’s ecosystems are degraded. Without the essential services provided by these natural systems, the planet cannot support life. For this reason, sustainability has been integrated into development at an ever-increasing rate.
There are many different examples of development for sustainability around the world, with sustainable cities, eco-industrial parks and corporations moving towards greater sustainability. The following article will describe the above movements and provide examples of sustainable development.
A sustainable city takes into account the natural environment in its design and aims to reduce the input of energy, water and other resources, as well as to minimize the generation of waste and other environmental disturbances. Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain is an example of a sustainable city or eco-city. It has implemented a policy of mixed land use and high-density development along its main transportation routes. An improved public transportation system allows more residents to live there, while the remaining green belts still provide habitat for wildlife and recreational areas for people.
Eco-industrial parks are areas where industries come together to cooperatively manage the use of resources and the environmental impacts caused by their operations. By sharing resources, they improve efficiency and create less waste. An eco-industrial park in Kalundborg, Denmark, has several companies that use the by-products of other manufacturers. The waste generated by a power plant in the park is used to manufacture cement by another company. Other companies use the heat generated by the power plant and the cement factory for some of their processes.
Corporations are also recognizing the importance of incorporating sustainable development principles into their operations. In the United States, Interface Inc., a leading producer of carpet tiles, has vastly improved its ecological footprint. By using recycled and more environmentally friendly products and more efficient manufacturing processes, they have reduced their energy and water consumption. Waste levels, especially hazardous waste, have also been significantly reduced.
With the adoption of sustainable development, all these examples have improved their environmental performance. As more and more governments, industries and individuals embrace sustainable development, the future of the planet will begin to look brighter.