Chapter 9

More-Sustainable Decisions Are Easier to Make and More Attractive

To a large degree, the patterns of unsustainable behavior described in Part I of this book have occurred because governments, corporations, individuals, and families have had no other choice or because sustainable options have been more expensive, less functional, or unpalatable. Even where more-sustainable approaches exist, they are often misunderstood or perceived as unattractive. Over the last two decades, the number and variety of attractive and publicly understood choices have grown. Governments, businesses, and individuals are making more-sustainable decisions because more and better choices exist.

More-sustainable decisions are increasingly understood as less expensive; more efficient; better for quality of life; and more consistent with individual, consumer, and public values. This is particularly true for decisions involving the use of energy, where rising energy costs, security concerns, and the availability of options for energy efficiency and renewable energy has made more-sustainable alternatives more appealing. In other cases, particularly with forest certification, the sustainable alternative is attractive in spite of the fact that it tends to command a price premium.

Fundamentally, sustainability is about creating choices that do not now exist and about making those alternatives attractive enough to be implemented. Changes that people want to make are more likely to happen at the necessary scale and speed than are changes that people resist or make reluctantly. The transitions from typewrit¬ers to personal computers, and from ordinary telephones to smartphones—both of which have happened in only a couple of decades—are examples of technological transitions that took place at the speed and scale needed for the transition to sus-tainability. Few if any of today’s new practices are fully sustainable. Still, they are perhaps the most obvious and prominent way that progress toward sustainability has manifested itself over the past two decades. And they are in response to the growing public support described in the previous chapter.

Over the past two decades, the number, variety, and sophistication of specific and demonstrated sustainability practices have grown. These practices, beyond simply being available, often provide more attractive opportunities than are provided by many current practices. At the same time, many unsustainable business-as-usual practices are becoming more costly and present greater risks. The availability of new analytical frameworks and approaches, particularly ecosystem services, indus¬trial ecology, and environmental management systems, enable more-sustainable decisions to be made more easily.

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