Where you are in the Sustainable Community AH process:

Communities and Sustainability


EPA Website

Triangle Tommorow


UNC School of Public Health

Why is the Environmental Quality an Attribute of Sustainability?

According to the 1987 Brundtland Report, sustainability is: "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."  While this is a just explanation, it is very general and does not address the presence of environmental quality in sustainability. To truly define sustainability, one must account for environmental quality as well as its relationship with the other components of sustainability. With such a definition we could develop the Research Triangle Region into a Sustainable Community as the ideals of Triangle Tomorrow express.

For this reason, we defined Environmental Sustainability to be the balance between (a) manipulating the environment to meet as many human needs as possible and (b) preserving the natural processes of the environment.

This definition makes the assumption that there is one and only one understanding of the environment’s natural processes. As you may know, what changes the environment’s quality and what has no long term effect is debatable. All natural processes are influenced by outside forces, some of which are unknown. Since they are unknown, it is easy to devalue environmental sustainability.  For this reason, the definition of environmental sustainability cannot stand alone.  Environmental Sustainability must take into consideration the environmental mechanisms and examine their ability to indicate the quality environment.

What Are the Sub-Attributes Environmental Quality? 

The environmental indicators of sustainability were selected based on the factors whose trends over time represent or draw attention to underlying trends in the condition of the environment.  After researching many different indicators of environmental quality, we decided to focus on air quality, water quality, and infrastructure development. Though some connections amongst these indicators and the quality of the environment are more easily distinguished than others, all are equally important. It is imperative to consider the consequences which any plan of action might have on the environment before implementation. In doing so, it is necessary to look not only at the most obvious and immediate consequences to the environment, but also at the more discrete and long-term consequences as well. 

How should Analytical Hierarchy Processes be applied at this point? 

            Because we have defined Environmental Quality as an attribute of a sustainable community, we are at Step 3 of the AHD Process and must now define the sub-attributes.  To do so, follow one of the links below to either the air quality pages, the water quality pages, or the infrastructure pages.

Water Quality    Air Quality    Infrastucture  

















Authors: Shawn Dayson Shifflett, Elisa Mayes, Justin Strickland, and Amber Hamm