Friday, March 13, 2009

Real Sustainability

I was struck by the contrast of two articles in the Courier Journal this evening and I felt as though I had to write something about what I read. One article covers the opening of a store on Frankfort Avenue called Sustain. Billed as an "eco-store", Sustain stocks items "for people and pets" and also exists to "dispense information about sustainable living". Here's an excerpt:

Among the products will be low-flow shower heads, rain barrels, handmade recycled glass dinnerware, pine needle baskets, bamboo flatware, chemical-free detergent, organic cotton towels and sheets, organic cotton baby wear, recycled soda bottle dog toys and organic cat nip.

The second article discusses the opening of a new Goodwill store in Clarksville. Goodwill provides "education, training and other support services for children and adults with disabilities". The store stocks used clothing and household items that have been donated, with the proceeds going to fund the aforementioned charitable activities. Here is an excerpt of that article:

With one hand, Pamela Elizondo pushed a heavily-laden shopping cart down the crowded aisle of the new Goodwill store in Clarksville, and with the other she pulled a large wheeled cooler.

“It’s really nice,” Elizondo, 38, said of the $3 million store that opened today on Applegate Lane. “It’s bigger, cleaner” than the old store.

But it has the same good prices, she added.

When the new 45,000-square-foot store and warehouse opened at 8 a.m., a line of shoppers extended down the sidewalk for nearly the length of the building, waiting without complaint in the cold.

When we speak about things like "sustainability" what do we really mean? Is it the purchase of a fashionable new product or is it the purchase of a necessary used product? Which one of these examples illustrates true sustainability? Is it brand-new rain barrels and foreign-made bamboo flatware or is it gently used clothing and blenders, the profits of which fund education and job training programs? To me, it looks like Sustainability = Goodwill, and in more ways than one.

Your thoughts?


  1. Totally! I think it's necessary to be thinking about how new things can be more ecologically/carefully produced, but even better to use what's already been made and still very usable.

  2. Two issues seem to be in play here, planet need and human need. Both share a common goal - survival. But the scales donot balance. The economy is in the tank and the unemployed are anxious for meaningful jobs and opportunity.

    It is my hope those who are warm and comfortable at night, tucked safely in their homes at night acknowledge that not all is well and do their part to help brothers and sisters in need.

    When faced with the situation - the decision to buy food or a recycled water bottle is a no-brainer.

    Ray W.