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What is Sustainability anyway?

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The need for sustainable energy is an issue that “isn’t going to go away,” according to GreeND president Lourdes Long. But what does the term “sustainable energy” mean? According to Forum co-chairman Frank Incropera, sustainable energy, on a global level, means “to get into a pattern of energy utilization this is sustainable for hundreds if not thousands of years.” Getting into this pattern of sustainability is important for its environmental consequences. “If you accept the fact that climate change is real, then using fossil fuels in the way we’ve been using them will have consequences to the environment that don’t bode well for sustainability,” Incropera said. Achieving sustainability on a universal scale isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, he said. “The goal is to get to your grandchildren to a point that allows for them economic development opportunity with a more benign economic impact,” Incropera said. Within the Notre Dame community, sustainability is all about balancing priorities, according to Jim Mazurek, the Director of the Office of Sustainability. “We define sustainability as considering the present and future needs of the University, balancing both environmental and economic considerations,” Mazurek said. “At Notre Dame, this means weaving sustainability principles into all we do – our institutional decision-making, operational practices, and built environment.”- Aaron Steiner and John Tierney