What is Sustainability?

At Luther, we believe that sustainable thinking is a tool for examining complex modern crises. We enact sustainability by greening our campus operations, reaching out to support our local cities and businesses, and teaching students through academic courses and campus life that creating a sustainable society is the responsibility of each of us.

Is there a way that we can have prosperity, freedom and equality for all people while protecting our natural environment so all life can flourish? That’s the question that sustainability asks.

Sustainability is a way of looking at the world.  Generally, sustainability is “the capacity to maintain a certain process or state indefinitely” (Wikipedia). When that concept is applied to modern life on earth, a common definition is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainability is about examining the world holistically and with a long-term perspective, rather than trying to solve problems independently from each other with “quick fixes.”

A sustainable world protects all people, our prosperity, and the planet. None of those three things are put above the others, and likewise none are considered less important.

Thinking sustainably often leads to the realization that today’s problems seem diverse but are often closely related, and solving one depends on solving others.

Achieving sustainable thought and practice will not be an easy task. It will require re-thinking our science and technology, our cultures, our behaviors, and our interactions with the natural world. But what is our alternative?

Wind turbines and geothermal heating, workers that are treated and paid fairly, products that compost or recycle, and balancing profits with equity all have their place in a sustainable campus and world. But ultimately, sustainability involves transforming how we all think about “how things work." As an institution of higher education, we take responsibility in preparing our graduates to create a just, fair future for everyone.

Luther is proud to be considered one of best schools in Iowa and the nation when it comes to being green.  In 2010, we were rated one of the top eight schools in the nation by the College Sustainability Report Card.  In 2011, we installed the first utility-scale wind turbine at a four-year college in Iowa.

Striving to be a green, eco friendly, sustainable (what ever you'd like to call it) college takes work and always involves compromises.  While we admit we still aren't sustainable, we are willing to take environmental, social, and economical concerns seriously enough to be the best green college we can be.