You are currently viewing What is Sustainability?

What is Sustainability?

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

Learn more about sustainability and how EPA incorporates it into its work in the National Reseach Council’s report, Sustainability and the U.S. EPA.

Why Is Sustainability Important?

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 committed the United States to sustainability, declaring it a national policy “to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” 

In the years since NEPA was enacted, the public’s interest in sustainability has broadened. According to the National Research Council, there are many additional drivers for sustainability. In the areas where the US has seen considerable progress in sustainability, a common driver for sustainability efforts is citizens and other stakeholders concern. In addition, sustainability practitioners are becoming more ambitious in their sustainability efforts and are working together to share best practices to ensure the greatest environmental, economic and social impact.  

EPA has a long history of working toward sustainable outcomes. To encourage progress, EPA developed a strategic approach to incorporate sustainability principles into its work

How Does EPA Promote Sustainability?

EPA has a variety of methods, tools, guidances and programs that sup​port the application of sustainability within decision-making including:

Database of Sustainability Indicators and Indices (DOSII)

This database is an inventory of sustainability indicators classified into a single system. Its design assists researchers and stakeholders in identifying specific indicators relevant to parts of the ecosystem such as air, water, energy, human health risks, and communities in general. Under development is a web tool that includes DOSII, the Human Well-being Index, and the Environmental Quality Index.

Executive orders and government-wide practices also influence EPA’s work. Learn more at the following links: