The non-technical standards of sustainability can be summed up in the following equation my Chilean permaculture teacher once shared with me:
1000 energy = 1 product (unsustainable) vs. 1 energy = 1000 products
THe idea is that we design things intelligently incorporating relationships in nature so that we avoid a system that requires a higher energy input than the value of the final energy output or product. For example, build a house with windows facing the south, so that it can receive energy from the sun and maximum light.
There is however a more technical term “sustainability standards” which refers to the different standards that organizations set to certify whether or not a company or product is “green” or “bio-friendly” company. Different industries have different standards, which are most often set by non-profit groups like the Forest Stewardship Council or the World Wildlife Foundation.
LEED is a federally associated organization that sets “green certification” standards, inspects applicants property/building, and awards certifications. Their standards are extensive for higher certifications. Their checklist for inspection includes some of the following: construction activity pollution prevention, development density and community connectivity, accommodations for alternate transportation (i.e. bike storage area), heat island effect, water efficient landscape, minimum energy performance. There are many more here is a link for more in depth research of standards:
Sustainability standards show the public which products, companies, processes and technologies are sustainable environmentally, socially and economically. The Global Reporting Initiative and ISO standards have sustainability criterion, along with lots of other organizations if you just google around for them.
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