About Sustainability

Definition of 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.  –Adopted from the US EPA.

Sustainability as defined by the United Nations is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

"We do not inherit the land from our fathers. We borrow it from our children."  -Native American Proverb


The Three Pillars of Sustainability

The 3 Ps (Planet, People, Profit) are the different ways to achieve developing goals that are sustainable.

  • Environmental Sustainability: Preserving nature and the environment through protection and rationing due to their status as renewable sources of resources.  Some forms of environmental sustainability include water conservation, renewable energy sources, innovative construction, and sustainable fashion.
  • Social Sustainability: Pushes for social development and cultural sustainability to achieve quality of life, healthcare, and education.  Gender equality is also a factor that contributes to social sustainability actions in the future.
  • Economic Sustainability: Sustainability's need for economic growth produces equal wealth while still protecting the environment.  This pillar also includes activities such as agriculture, green tourism, industry, and green IT.


Compelling Numbers and Facts

Global warming is mainly the result of CO2 levels rising in the Earth’s atmosphere, currently at 400 ppm. Both atmospheric CO2 and climate change are accelerating. 

  • Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health, i.e., clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter.
  • The US generates 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste and recycles 69 million tons, a little under 24%. (EPA)
  • The hole in the Earth's ozone layer, which was a source of global concern during the 1980s, is on track to repair itself following the banning of CFCs and other ozone-depleting gases under the Montreal Protocol.  It is expected to fully heal between 2040 and 2070. (Britannica)
  • Livestock and fisheries (31%) are the largest contributors to food emissions.  Crop production, including the growing of animal feed, contributes a further 27%.  (OWID) 
  • One million species of plants and animals are currently at risk of extinction, including many well-known species that could be extinct before 2050. There are already at least 20% fewer native land species than there were in 1900. (IPBES)
  • There are currently around 416.45 PPM (parts per million) of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is responsible for around two-thirds of the total effects of climate change. (The Roundup)
  • Despite advances in clean and renewable energy sources, 83% of global energy still comes from fossil fuels. (The World Counts)
  • Over 685 universities across America, including UNCP, have agreed to work towards carbon neutrality and publicly signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment.