Not that long ago “sustainability” was a new word for people, and those promoting the concept in the built environment had to take the role of educators. It’s been hard to get past the notion that this sustainability thing is just tree-hugging, polar bear saving, donations to Mother Earth. But it’s so much more – it’s justice, peace, beauty, and wholeness. It’s wise business, and there’s now a track record to prove it. We are making progress.

Companies that adopted sound principles of sustainability early on can now be touted as examples. While “sustainability” means something different to everyone, there are underlying tenets that have become generally understood. No longer is it strange to think about recycling carpet squares. I no longer have to gingerly explain dual flush toilets to skeptical *ahem* patrons. Coal is being left in the ground. Asthmatics can breathe easier. Turf grass is giving way to prairie grass.

I chose a creative profession because I love the challenge of solving new problems every day. Every project is different. Sustainability is different for every project. While I appreciate contributions the LEED green building rating system has made to the built environment, I’m excited that the marketplace is evolving past such a rote definition of sustainability. The waters are murky in the medium term, but there’s no doubt companies pursuing sustainability, applied uniquely to every endeavor, will be rewarded.

For those who want to go further up and further in, it’s up to us to guide each project to higher levels of value. “Sustainability”, as a stand-alone term is becoming dated. I, for one, am pleased as punch to be in a brave new world, standing on a firm foundation, and looking forward to helping those brave enough to think big.

I don’t want to miss those swing-for-the-fences moments where we set aside incremental goals and instead go for something special and worthy.