What are the three facets of sustainability?

12:00 PM

When the topic of sustainability comes up, many people immediately think about recycling. Because sustainability is only about protecting the environment, right?


Sustainability is actually multi-faceted and is concerned with more than just the environment. While planet Earth is extremely important and the main goal of sustainability is to care for it, sustainability is also concerned with Earth's inhabitants and how we sustain ourselves. This lends itself to the three facets: environmental, economic (or financial) and social.

Environmental Sustainability

According to the World Bank, in 2018, there were 7.5 billion people living on Earth. There were also 1.2 million species of animals and 391,000 species of plants accounted for in 2018, with the amount steadily rising. (World Atlas, 2018 and Mongabay, 2016) Each and every one of these species requires nature to survive – for food, for hydration, for growth. 

Environmental sustainability ensures these survival necessities are always met. It also ensures we are able to continue enjoying our outdoor hobbies and recreational activities, such as fishing, kayaking and hiking.

One of the simplest ways to understand environmental sustainability is through the phrase "leave no trace." It reminds people to only interact with the environment as much as they need to survive and to not cause irreparable harm. Also, when it comes to tourism and recreation, it's a reminder to enjoy the places you visit, but to, once again, not cause harm so that the residents can continue to use the natural resources in that area.

There are many ways to be environmentally sustainable. Some examples are: composting, taking public transportation instead of driving, starting a garden, turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth and using reusable cutlery and water bottles.

Economic Sustainability

Money may not be the answer to happiness, but it plays a large part in the well-being of individuals, families, communities and the environment. Economic sustainability refers to practices and initiatives that promote long-term economic growth of a community without negatively impacting the social, cultural or environmental aspects of it.

There are a variety of ways to be economically sustainable, ranging from shopping local to creating a budget, and even upcycling items you already have.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability is one of the three facets many people may not consider. Although it is common to practice self-care today, it is seldom associated with being sustainable, but it is. And it is only one of the many forms social sustainability takes.

This facet is one that embraces the plethora of cultures and diversity in the world, connecting people from all backgrounds, beliefs and communities, local and afar. It encourages the support of one another and everything that makes us unique.

Social sustainability can be practiced anywhere and with anyone. It can be volunteering, supporting local restaurants and shops, learning a new language, spending time with your family and friends or fostering an animal.

How do you practice sustainability, using these three facets as a guide? Do you practice one form more than another? Sound off in the comments below!

You Might Also Like