students work on solar golf cart


What is sustainability?

Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs -Brundtland Commission (1987) “Our Common Future”

Sustainability Venn Diagram made by OOS

The three pillars of sustainability are environmental, social equity, and economic. The environmental pillar addresses viable and natural ecosystems, natural resources and healthy habitats. The social equity pillar includes nurturing communities that intentionally builds justice and fairness into social policy. The economic pillar is accountable to an efficient economy where resources are optimally allocated and waste is minimized.

When the environmental and the social equity pillars overlap, there is opportunity to develop sustainable, natural and built environments. When the environmental and economic pillars overlap, responsible economic development reduces inequality and financial disparities. When the economic and social equity pillars overlap, an equitable social environment creates policy impacting all communities equally. When all three pillars are taken into account, sustainability and sustainable development in society are achievable. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) further defines sustainability as 17 attainable objectives. These are the guidelines used to qualify our programs and courses as sustainable:

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  1. No Poverty - Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
  2. Zero Hunger - Sustainable agriculture systems achieve increased soil health, improve overall nutrition, and help eradicate poverty.
  3. Good Health and Wellbeing - Enduring healthy solutions to major mental and physical illnesses that affect a large portion of the population, decreasing the maternal mortality rate, and investing in ensuring essential healthcare is easily accessible.
  4. Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. Gender Equality - Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation - Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in.
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy - Clean and equitable energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity.
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth - Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - Investments in infrastructure are crucial to achieving sustainable development.
  10. Reduced Inequalities - To reduce inequalities, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities - There needs to be a future in which cities provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.
  12. Responsible Production and Consumption - Keeping the lifecycle of a product in mind while purchasing, consuming and disposing of materials or resources.
  13. Climate Action - The climate crisis is a global challenge that affects everyone, everywhere.
  14. Life Below Water - Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
  15. Life On Land - Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions - Access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals - Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Project Support

If you are interested in our office's guidance for a campus sustainability project, complete the Sustainability Project Support form here.
If you are interested in applying for funding for a campus sustainability project, complete the Student Sustainability Project Funding form here.