Sustainable development was coined in 1987 by the Bruntland Commission where they defined it as, ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Since then, sustainable development theory has been greatly expanded and these ideas have been utilised around the world. The need for development to become more sustainable is important, as many of the planet’s ecosystems are degraded. Without the essential services provided by these natural systems, the planet cannot sustain life. For this reason, sustainability has been integrated into development at an ever-growing pace.
There are many different examples of development for sustainability around the world, with sustainable cities, eco-industrial parks, and corporations all moving towards greater sustainability. The following article will describe the above movements and provide examples of sustainable development.
A sustainable city considers the natural environment in its design and aims to reduce the input of energy, water and other resources, as well as minimising the generation of waste and other environmental disturbances. Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain is one example of a sustainable city or eco-city. It has implemented a policy of mixed land use and high density development along its major transport routes. An upgraded public transport system allows more residents to live there, while remaining green belts still provide habitat for wildlife and recreational areas for people.
Eco-industrial parks are areas where industries are placed together to co-operatively manage the use of resources and environmental impacts caused by their operations. By sharing resources they improve efficiency and create less waste. An eco-industrial park in Kalundborg, Denmark has a number of businesses that utilise the by-products of other manufacturers. The waste created by a power station in the park is used to make cement by another firm. Other businesses use heat generated by the power plant and cement factory for some of their processes.
Corporations are also recognising the importance of incorporating sustainable development principles into their operations. In America, Interface Inc., a major carpet tile producer has greatly improved its ecological footprint. By using recycled and more environmentally friendly products, and more efficient manufacturing processes, they have reduced their energy and water consumption. The levels of waste, particularly hazardous waste have also been greatly reduced.
By the adoption of sustainable development, all of these examples have improved their environmental performance. As more and more governments, industries and individuals incorporate sustainable development, the future of the planet will begin to look brighter.