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Wrestling with Sustainability

    Defining Terms

    The question of what we meant by ‘Sustainability’ took us more than thirty minutes in class last Friday. It’s a conversation I’ve had with clients too. Google the term sustainability and you open up quite a few rabbit holes. However, like any term, the best way to understand it is probably first to look for the ‘why?’ behind it. It all comes back to looking for doughnuts on Google. Do you want to talk about doughnuts? Then we’re going to need to frame the conversation.

    The word “Sustainability” is a tough nut to crack though, especially when we’re trying to rank for keywords on Google. I have encountered this problem with some of my clients whose focus is exactly that – selling sustainability. Interior decoration, building, architecture, work-life balance, food … doing something in a way that does not exhaust what you are doing or any other resource.

    Sustainability is not just eco-friendly. It can save everyone time.

    There are sustainable processes for social media, storytelling, gardening, even our fitness regimen. There’s even the chance to talk about sustainable email. We should, if we want to understand what we mean by the term.

    Food? Climate? Shoes? What do you think?

    We think most often of sustainability as having to do with the climate, food production and consumption, even our survival as a species. Sustainability can also be about how we build or decorate our homes, or what we wear. It can be about our personal, work, or cultural relationships – and yes, even those with our customers if we give them a value of more than about 300 euro like a certain fitness studio I could name.

    Oh, and as this is a website, we could even talk about the sustainability of web design. “Sustainable web design is an approach to designing web services that puts people and planet first.”

    No lie. That’s pretty cool.

    website carbon footprint check

    Sustainable websites have a minimal carbon footprint

    You can check your website at

    From data centres to transmission networks to the billions of connected devices that we hold in our hands, it is all consuming electricity, and in turn producing carbon emissions.

    Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

    The German term, Nachhaltigkeit – to contain something afterwards – really only translates as sustainability oddly enough. Break it down and you have, “to hold” and “coming afterwards”. Having something to hold afterwards. Sounds like a very good idea. It may indeed be a new idea we should develop over the next decades. To continue, to survive, to maintain and to uphold. As a species that really DOES sounds like a good idea.

    I really like the feel of the meaning in German. It immediately reminds me of the Antifragile concept put forward by Mr. Taleb in his celebrated book. Robust things might not break when pressed, unlike fragile things, but antifragile things actually improve when under duress. Such as the Hydra in Greek mythology – cut off one head and two grow back. A better example of sustainability is likely difficult to find. Using this concept, we can begin to build resilient cities that flourish together with the environment rather than attempt to subdue it by pouring concrete over a forest.

    More than just a shameless spot

    Bridget says you should keep your marketing evergreen, which is a useful term when we talk about sustainability. I think our attention is probably better focused when there is the whiff of something to buy though. The shameless pseudo spot for my first novel which appears in the video below, was intended to prove a point for the second in a series of three books focusing on Online Marketing Bridget and I are writing.

    Book two is for Nonprofits, who are probably very interested in Sustainability for good. Book one was for Small Businesses who are probably very interested in Sustainability for profit. Book three will be for Schools – and here the sustainability of the human species is probably of great interest if we are to have any first graders in the twenty-second century.

    Content Marketing. Find a subject your target audience is talking about. Go to where they are talking about it, and join the conversation. When it comes to sustainability it’s probably a conversation we should all be having.

    I talked about this topic again with Green Geeks on a webinar in October 2022. Check it out!

    Further Information and the Video

    Here you will find information about the books I mentioned:

    Some of my clients for whom Sustainability is core to what they do: