Taking the Natural Step

Blog post by Gustavo Grad

Sustainability” these days seems to be the solution to all of our problems. The environmental crisis can be minimized with the use of common sense and sustainable design solutions. The economy can flourish if we can define our limits using the definition of “sustainability” by the United Nations Brundtland Commission (formerly World Commission on Environment and Development): “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.”

(Courtesy of The Natural Step)


The word “sustainability” is everywhere, but we still are living in an unsustainable pattern. Beyond the talking, what about doing something? Which leads to the question: how to find not just small steps to take, but a long-lasting transformative path for change?

Coincidentally, I received an invitation to a webinar about The Natural Step. Based in Canada with offices in 11 countries, The Natural Step has developed a blueprint toward sustainability.

I know how to build green and eat organic, but I considered this as an e-learning opportunity in my own journey toward sustainability.

To be strategic about sustainability, we need to know where we’re headed. We need to know what success is in terms of sustainability. To put it in another way, if we don’t know where we are going, any road will take us there,” states The Natural Step’s Web site. The webinar speaker used the image of a funnel to help attendants to visualize the economical, social, and environmental pressure on a society where natural resources and ecosystems diminish at the same time that population and consumption grow.

What is different about The Natural Step from other approaches to sustainability is that the organization begins the planning process with the end in mind. A new approach it calls “backcasting.” Using a metaphor, if sustainability is a journey, where the speed is not important but the direction, The Natural Step offers a lighthouse at the end of the path that can help guide the way.

No question that the answers rest in a good education, and if you are looking for deeper learning, The Natural Step may be the right first step for you.

Gustavo Grad is an architect and LEED AP professional.

© 2011 SCGH, LLC.

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