6 pairs of hands hover above some dirt; their hands cupping some soil that has a little sapling growing from the soil.

What Are the 3 E's of Sustainability?

Written by John Mace Alois

What Are the Three E’s of Sustainability?

You can’t know what the three E’s of sustainability are without first knowing the definition of sustainability. Sustainability means living and meeting current needs without compromising future generations' living standards and needs.

While it is a broad definition, sustainability (or environmental sustainability) matters in everything we do. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that “everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.”

Understanding Sustainability

The EPA states, “to pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.” With Earth Day 2022 soon approaching on April 22, it is more important than ever that we do what we can to support sustainability in every way possible.

Every sustainable action does not have to be this sweeping lifestyle change. Small tasks, like buying Fairtrade products, encourage sustainability on many fronts. To name a few benefits, fairtrade ensures fairer pay for farmers, supports sustainable trade, and reduces environmental impact.

While Fairtrade does its part, you can do yours. You can go even further in helping those around the world by understanding and applying the three E’s of sustainability.

6 pairs of hands hover above some dirt; their hands cupping some soil that has a little sapling growing from the soil.

Ecology

Ecology is the first pillar of sustainability and is probably the most closely tied to sustainability out of the three. It is our association and relationship with nature. Without nature, we can no longer be sustainable. Everyone talks about their ecological footprint and how to reduce it. Our footprint is the demand we put on nature to support us. The two major ways we can reduce our footprint are through water and energy.

Water

Water is essential no matter how you look at it. We need it to survive and need it to clean, cook and even enjoy outdoor events. It is commonly known as the “Giver of Life,” but we only have so much of it left. Therefore, we try to preserve the freshwater in any way we can.

Using low-flow bathroom appliances, not letting the water run when you brush your teeth, only watering your lawn when needed, etc. Even on a larger scale, scientists are trying to find more sustainable ways to use saltwater and reclaimed water for crops and energy.

A bucket that has a PVC pipe attached to the top acting as a spout. A sign on top of the pipe reads 'recycled water from air conditioner'

Energy

Like water, energy is all around us in every way. However, the use of fossil fuels and oil for our energy is damaging our atmosphere. Pivoting towards renewable energies like wind, solar, and tidal energy are all more sustainable (and are becoming cheaper as well). Powering your house with solar energy and using electric cars are becoming more popular and cheaper every day.

Economy

There are many definitions when it comes to the economy. When paired with sustainability, it refers to the sustainable use of resources to meet the community's needs. Building sustainable economic communities will involve funding, housing, and job creation regardless of where you live. Supporting small businesses and supplying affordable houses are much more impactful than one would think.

Job Creation

There’s no secret that more jobs equal a better economy. The more people earning money equals more money to spend. It’s a small and simple-sounding solution, but it does help make a world of difference. Some community spaces host workshops that help individuals get jobs through resume-writing assistance, mock interviews, and providing job postings for the general public.

Job fairs are also available at colleges where company representatives provide students with information about their workplaces. Imploring companies to open up more positions and pay more people will be better for the economy and, ultimately, more people going forward.

Small Businesses

Lately, there has been a lot of support for small businesses in the pandemic. With economic hardship as difficult as ever, more people have turned to their local businesses. Supporting small businesses supports the local economy and provides more jobs to your community. In addition, small businesses usually have to set themselves apart from their larger competitors by better services and higher-quality goods.

A very cluttered and busy desk. On the corkboard is a sign that reads 'small business'

Affordable Housing

Housing is necessary even to start the other economic opportunities listed above. Shelter is a need and not a privilege. Cheaper housing (and more housing overall) helps keep people out of the street and back on their feet. Once people get their bearings, they can also enter the job market and contribute to their communities as well. Once the jobs are there, some people will splinter off and start their own businesses. In turn, this creates more jobs.

It also helps more people stay in their community and prevent gentrification. Less gentrification means preserving the unique culture and supporting the small businesses already in place.

Equity

Ecology is quite different from the other two, but it is equally important. Equity is not just about equality, but developing sustainable attitudes toward each other. It can also be labeled as empowerment and elevation.

Giving those in lower-income communities, usually stemming from systemic racism prevalent in minority communities, better chances to succeed will prove better for everyone in the future.

Equity is providing those equal opportunities in the workplace, in the community, and in education.

Our artisan and friend, Gurusiddappa, an older Indian man, is smiling for the camera on the yarn-making floor
Artisans like Gurusiddappa work with us to ensure that he is paid fairly for his hard work!

Creating A More Sustainable Future

Sustainability isn’t just about reducing our use of plastics and purchasing from sustainable fashion brands (which are still very important and helpful, mind you). It is a way of life incorporated into our daily lives. It requires a shift of mindset and perspective that places the planet at the forefront over the individual.

It involves the people we see on the streets and people behind the store counters. It involves the brands we buy from and the food we serve on our dinner tables. It involves the cars we drive and the politicians we support.

Sustainability is itself a lifestyle, and while becoming a more sustainably-minded person might sound daunting, it also means that anyone can do it. You can start small with a simple change and gradually improve from there. In the end, every little bit counts, and it takes a group effort to build a better tomorrow for us all.

Meet the Author

Close up of the author, John Mace Alois, wearing red button up shirt and a black tie in front of brick wall with creeping green vines behind him.

John has always had a strong affinity for anything craft and creativity related. Aside from crochet and other yarn crafts, he spends his spare time going on hikes with his wife and dog, as well as doing abstract painting. Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, he currently lives and works in the city as a freelance writer.