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How do you measure Sustainability?


"A sustainable community effort consists of a long-term, integrated, systems approach to developing and achieving a healthy community by jointly addressing economic, environmental, and social issues… The focus and scale of sustainability efforts depend on local conditions, including resources, politics, individual actions, and the unique features of the community."
Beth E. Lachman, Critical Technologies Institute



Sustainability, as informed by environmental and human health, economic vitality, and social justice, can be measured by a series of indicators. Indicators are the specific numerical parameters that provide a way to quantify and measure the abstract idea of "sustainability". Alone, indicators provide a way to assess how the community looks right now. In comparison to one another, however, indicators of human and environmental health, economic vitality and social justice can serve as an overarching framework to evaluate the sustainability of a community in the years to come. For example, although asthma hospitalization rates are clearly an indication of the respiratory health of a community, they may also be indicative of the environmental air quality in the region. Conversely, a measure of peak ozone concentrations may indicate the potential health risk of asthma attacks. In this manner, sustainability indicators provide a portrait of sustainability with respect to particular categories of community wellbeing, but overall sustainability can only be assessed through a characterization of the entire community.




UNC Chapel Hill: Enst 94/Envr 95 Capstone, Fall 2005

Last Updated: December 17, 2005 (K.N.Baer)