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What is 'sustainability?' Students weigh in

January 17, 2017

Have you ever been asked "what is sustainability?" by co-workers, friends or family who are curious about the things that you do, your daily behaviors like recycling or riding your bike? Sustainability is a broad and overarching concept, and it can often be difficult to find the right words describe it.

According to Danielle Yzaguirre, a Penn State student studying sustainability leadership, "To me, sustainability means having hope for the future of the human race."

Three students enrolled in the Sustainability Leadership minor weigh in.


“Sustainability, to me, means having hope for the future of the human race. It means having hope that my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will live on a planet that resembles the one I was fortunate enough to grow up on." --  Danielle Yzaguirre

"Planet Earth, along with all the life that inhabits it, is sacred. It is our only home and thus requires us to treat it and its resources with the utmost of care. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt like I have had a duty to protect Earth and her remarkable, unique beauty. Sustainability is accepting that – though separated by vast oceans and social, economical, and political inconsistencies – we are all interconnected. We are all a part of one human race, whose duty is to sustain ourselves for time to come. This, however, can only be achieved with unity on the importance of sustainability, in all aspects of society. Without uniform acknowledgement of today’s pressing sustainability issues, whether it is environmental, social, or economic, the future doesn’t look so bright. Sustainability is an outlet that enables me to harness my passion for what I believe our world requires, and it is what I intend to strive for in my life’s work.”


"To me, sustainability is a lifestyle of caring. It is a lifestyle where one’s choices extend past the immediate effects, a lifestyle where other life on this planet, and future life to come, is considered and respected." -- Geoff Merz

"I believe that we do not act 'sustainably' or 'unsustainably,' but instead on a continuum where there is constant room for improvement. When we are able to extend beyond ourselves and consider the social, economic, and environmental needs of others, we will reach a state where all generations have the ability to live lives of opportunity, health, and wellbeing."


"Sustainability, NachHaltigkeit, DługoTrwałość. Three different languages, three times the literally exact same meaning: English, German and Polish speakers all use the same basic gist when talking about the concept of sustainability –- the ability to persist, last, continue, maintain or preserve for a long time." -- Leonie Schröpfer

"To me, it is fascinating and important that each language describe sustainable action with a term that already encompasses a literal definition. It might hence be easy to understand the basic concept of this nowadays fancy word, however, sustainability misses the explanation what needs to be sustained and how. For me, it means to act in a way as well as promote and support action that simultaneously ensures the long-term stability of the holistic ecosystems we live in and are dependent on, advocates for just and peaceful living together of people on local and global scale, and warrants economic security on individual and state level. I believe in the need for such an arguably idealistic sustainability framework in order to never cease striving for improvement, as we live in a time which needs true sustainable commitment. I regard my generation as especially awarded to make sustainability reality, to be hopefully eventually rewarded by next generations’ as well as earth’s. Thank You, Dankeschön, Dziękujemy."

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