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September 8, 2008

News & Opinion: The Tao of Sustainability

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:27 PM – Filed under: Personal Development & Human Behavior

We've seen a large increase in the number of books on sustainability and "greening" this year, including this new one from Yale University Press: Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture by John R. Ehrenfeld. You'll read more about these books in our forthcoming 2008 annual review, In the Books (links to inaugural 2007 edition), but here's a look at this book, which is based on the premise that "sustainability is the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever."
Don't dismiss that premise as lofty and unrealistic, though. The success of sustainability efforts in this world depends on our adoption of idealistic standards and a vision for a healthier world. Ehrenfeld addresses the obstacles and problematic attitudes to this vision, and offers practical steps to adopting a sustainability mindset on both the personal and corporate levels. He suggests new, holistic approaches to sustainable design that won't act, as others have in the past, as Band-Aids. Instead, Ehrenfeld focuses on the routes we should take to ensure success.
Here is John Ehrenfeld on The Tao of Sustainability:

Flourishing can occur only if we pay close attention to the three critical domains that the forces of modernity have dimmed:
  • Our sense of ourselves as human beings: the human domain.

  • Our sense of our place in the [natural] world: the natural domain.

  • Our sense of doing the right thing: the ethical domain.

And here are his suggestions about the Special Role of Business in becoming a sustainable society:
  • Replace the rubric of sustainable development with that of sustainability as flourishing

  • Stop publishing misleading advertisements hinting that ecoefficiency will solve the world's problems and save money at the same time

  • Use the "Tao of Sustainability" as a strategic and operational template

  • Create a culture of sustainability in the workplace

  • Businesses should design their offerings to guide behavior toward ethical responsibility

  • Social responsibility, like charity, begins at home.

You can read more about John and Sustainability by Design at: http://johnehrenfeld.com/index.html

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.