The term sustainable development has been widely used in scientific, business, and public institutions since it was first defined in the Bruntland Commission's "Our Common Future" in1987. Sustainable development in that context refers to "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of further generations to meet their own needs." With all the publicity surrounding sustainable development, few people fully understand what is meant by the term or how to apply it to environmental work and everyday life.
Related publications from the Ag Center
Integrated Pest Management
Pollution Prevention, Best Management Practices, and Conservation
EPA grants available to reduce pesticide use
Strategic Agricultural Initiative Grants
Sustainable DevelopmentSustainable development is less of a program and more of a new multifaceted approach to managing our environmental, economic, and social resources for the long term. In its simplest terms, it means adding some new considerations or dimensions to our everyday decisions as a society. These considerations include:
- What are the long-term impacts of a decision?
- Is the decision sustainable on a local level?
- Have the economic, social, and environmental impacts been incorporated into the decision?
Federal, state, tribal, and local governments working together to achieve environmental protection goals will set the standard for cooperation between communities, businesses, and governments. This new collaborative decision making process will ensure better decisions, create more rapid change, and promote more sensible use of human, natural, and financial resources. Creating a widely held ethic of stewardship will encourage individuals, institutions, and corporations to take responsibility for the economic, environmental, and social consequences of their actions.
More information from EPA
Green Communities - A portal to tools and information on the best strategies, programs and policies to reduce your environmental footprint. A 5-step environmental planning framework leads you to a greener, sustainable future.
Sustainable AgricultureAs part of an initiative to reduce pesticide risks and use, EPA and the United States Department of Agriculture are promoting sustainable agriculture and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, including biological and cultural control systems. USDA supports research and education programs with the cooperation of State Agricultural Experiment Stations and State Cooperative Extension Service staff.
More information from EPA
Sustainable Agriculture and TribesA new curriculum from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program aims to help those who work with American Indians better understand the unique challenges faced by native farmers. The materials are titled "People of the Land".
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Center
People of the Land Publication: Sustaining American Indian Agriculture in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington
Sustainability information from EPA Headquarters
Provides cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for large-scale landscaping.
- GreenScaping for Homeowners: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard
GreenScaping encompasses a set of landscaping practices that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)
A federal-wide program that encourages and assists Executive agencies in the purchasing of environmentally preferable products and services.
- Smart Growth
Smart growth is development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment.
- Office of Research and Development's 2005 International Sustainability Workshop
The EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) hosted an international workshop on "Meeting the Future: A Research Agenda for Sustainability" from May 18 to 20, 2005.
Sustainability information from the EPA Regions
- EPA Region 1: Sustainability (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont & 10 Tribal Nations)
- EPA Region 2: Sustainability (New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and 7 Tribal Nations)
- EPA Region 3: Center for Sustainability (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia)
- EPA Region 10: Sustainability Activities (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Native Tribes)
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC)
AFSIC is one of several topic-oriented information centers at the National Agricultural Library (NAL). AFSIC specializes in locating and accessing information related to alternative cropping systems including sustainable, organic, low-input, biodynamic, and regenerative agriculture. AFSIC also focuses on alternative crops, new uses for traditional crops, and crops grown for industrial production.
-Agricultural Funding Resources
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE)
SARE works to increase knowledge about -- and help farmers and ranchers adopt -- practices that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible. To advance such knowledge nationwide, SARE administers a competitive grants program first funded by Congress in 1988.
Sustainable Development Program
The guiding principals of USDA's sustainable development initiatives related to Sustainable Forestry, Sustainable Agriculture, and Sustainable Rural Community Development are: (1) Sustainable Agriculture -- USDA supports the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of diverse food, fiber, agriculture, forest, and range systems; (2) Sustainable Forestry -- USDA balances the goals of improved production and profitability, stewardship of natural resources and ecological systems, and enhancement of the vitality of rural communities; and (3) Sustainable Rural Community Development -- USDA integrates these goals into its policies and programs, particularly through interagency collaboration, partnerships, and outreach.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA): Family & Small Farms
NIFA administers competitive and non-competitive funding opportunities that help its partners undertake research, education, and extension activities that support the work of farmers and ranchers across the United States.
- Community Supported Agriculture
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a new idea in farming, one that has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. In basic terms, CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
- The New American Farmer, 2nd Edition: Profiles of Agricultural Innovation
This new SARE publication collects in-depth interviews with farmers and ranchers to describe sustainable farm operations around the country.
Organic farming links
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC)
- Organic Food Production Publications
- Great Places to Find Information About Farming Alternatives
- Organic Agriculture Highlights
The New Farm®: Farmer-to-Farmer Know How from The Rodale Institute®
Organic No-Till/Cover Crop Roller - farming neighbors designed and constructed a front-mounted cover-crop roller that allows you to knock down a weed-suppressing mat and plant through it, all in one quick pass.
Other government sustainability links
- FedCenter - Sustainability
The Sustainability Program Area includes the latest guidance, examples, and information resources to aid Federal facilities in developing and maintaining sustainable facilities and helping to develop and promote sustainable practices within their environmental programs or activities.
- Smart Communities Network: Creating Energy Smart Communities
- Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Consumer's Guide: Farms and Ranches
A list of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies for farms and ranches to help lower energy costs and to benefit the environment.
- Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
The national sustainable farming information center operated by the private nonprofit National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). ATTRA provides technical assistance on sustainable farming production practices, alternative crop and livestock enterprises, and innovative marketing to farmers, extension agents, market gardeners, agricultural researchers, and other ag professionals in all 50 states.
- Center for Rural Affairs
The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit by rural Nebraskans and has since grown to a nationally recognized policy analysis and advocacy organization focused on the upper Midwest and Great Plains. The Center for Rural Affairs has a long and proven track record in promoting sustainable agriculture policy and practices.
- Delta F.A.R.M.
Delta Farmers Advocating Resource Management (F.A.R.M.) is an association of growers and landowners that strive to implement recognized agricultural practices that will conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the Northwest Mississippi. In joining this association, growers and landowners agree to use the environmental program to assess their farms and to guide them in attaining the highest possible level of land and water resource stewardship in order to ensure a more sustainable and profitable future for agriculture.
- Landcare Australia
Landcare Australia is a bridge between Landcare and Coastcare groups, governments, and business, connecting people throughout Australia to care for our environment.
- Tools of Change
Offers specific tools, case studies, and a planning guide for helping people take actions and adopt habits that promote health and/or are more environmentally-friendly. Helps integrate best practices of many other programs - practices that have already been successful in changing people's behavior.
- The Food Alliance
Food Alliance promotes sustainable agriculture by recognizing and rewarding farmers who produce food in environmentally friendly and socially responsible ways, and educating consumers and others in the food system about the benefits of sustainable agriculture.
- Protected Harvest
Protected Harvest is dedicated to advancing and certifying the use of environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture practices.
- Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission
The Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission practices sustainable viticulture involves all aspects of farming: viticulture, soil management, water management, pest management, habitat management, human resources (growers, their family members, and their employees), and wine quality.
- Shepherd's Grain
Shepherd's Grain comes from an alliance of progressive family farms dedicated to practicing sustainable agriculture.
- Global Methane Initiative
This initiative builds on the existing structure and success of the Methane to Markets Partnership to reduce emissions of methane, while enhancing and expanding these efforts and encouraging new resource commitments from country partners.
- California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) - Sustainable Winegrowing Program
CAWG will establish voluntary high standards of sustainable practices to be followed and maintained by the entire wine community. The Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Program will promote farming and winemaking practices that are sensitive to the environment, responsive to the needs and interests of society-at-large, and are economically feasible in practice.
- Cornell University, Community Capacity Building
- Iowa State University Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
- Kansas State University Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops
- Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
- North Carolina State University Sustainable Agriculture Program
- Northwest Berry and Grape Information Network (Oregon State University, University of Idaho, Washington State University, USDA-ARS)
- Ohio State University -- Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter
- Oregon State University -- Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC)
- Pennsylvania State University Sustaining Agriculture Program
- Purdue University Sustainable Agriculture Program
- Southern Center for Sustainable Forests
- University of California, Davis -- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
- University of California, Davis -- Sustainable Agriculture Publications
- University of California, Santa Cruz -- Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
- University of Illinois -- Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
- University of Maine Sustainable Agriculture Program
- University of Massachusetts Community Supported Agriculture
- University of Massachusetts Agriculture and Landscape Program
- University of Massachusetts Sustainable Agriculture Program
- University of Missouri Alternatives Center
- University of Nebraska Applied Rural Innovation
- University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture
- University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
- Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources
- West Virginia University Sustainable Agriculture Program