Sustaining our environment

What is sustainability?

There is no simple definition of 'sustainability'. It can be an idea, a property of living systems, a manufacturing method or a way of life. In fact, there may be as many definitions of sustainability as there are people trying to define it.

However, most definitions include:

  • living within the limits of what the environment can provide
  • understanding the many interconnections between economy, society and the environment
  • the equal distribution of resources and opportunities.

Sustainability connections

Economic development Resource use e.g. water Human and worker rights
Local industry participation Waste generation Paying appropriate wages
Jobs created Material sourcing Working conditions
Corporate governance Atmospheric pollution Freedom of association
Public reporting Toxic material disposal Workforce diversity

Sustainable development aims to meet human needs in the present while preserving the environment so that these needs can also be met in the indefinite future.

OEH implements environmental sustainability programs that include actions to:

  • reduce the use of physical resources including water and energy
  • encourage recycling
  • increase the use of renewable resources
  • encourage redesign of production processes and products to eliminate the production of toxic materials
  • protect and restore natural habitats and environments valued for their biodiversity or beauty.

These programs aim to strike the balance between benefits for the environment and society and economic costs - helping to move NSW towards a more sustainable future.

Did You Know?

  • Australians spend over $10.5 billion annually on goods and services that are never or hardly ever used. This is more than the total spent by governments on Australian universities and roads.
  • Over $5.3 billion worth of food was thrown away in 2004. This equates to 13 times the amount Australians donated to overseas aid agencies at that time.
    (Source - Australia Institute, 2005 DP77)

Sustainable purchasing can save money as well as the environment. Reduced consumption means reduced purchasing costs - saving resources such as water, energy and raw materials and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Page last updated: 12 February 2014