When looking for a synonym of sustainable (adjective), things get a bit complicated.
The biggest issue with using sustainable as an adjective is that it is not very practical.
By definition, sustainability means meeting all the needs of all the people, both present and future.
Therefore, something can be sustainable only if everything else is also sustainable. In other words, we must take into consideration:
- all the resources in the world,
- all the needs of all the people on Earth,
- right now and in the future.
That’s the only way to determine whether or not things are done in a way that ensures our continued survival.
Unfortunately, this is almost impossible to determine with any degree of certainty.
Any claim of sustainable this or sustainable that can be easily countered simply by pointing out changes in needs and/or resources because even the smallest change will require a recalculation of the entire system. And, the system changes all the time!
Therefore, using the word sustainable as an adjective is almost meaningless.
Is there a better word to use instead? Preferably one, which clearly communicates its intended meaning and can be used in everyday life to provide clear guidance in decision making?
That word is: responsible.
Just like our survival gives clear meaning to sustainability (noun), responsible gives clear meaning to sustainable (adjective).
The government should do more to promote responsible agriculture.
The creation of an efficient and responsible transport system is critical to the long-term future of London.
Cycling is a totally responsible form of transport.
Not only does responsible offer a complete clarity. It is also way more actionable.
Decision making usually comes down to selecting the best option. Determining which option is more responsible from those available will always be easier and more practical than trying to calculate the ultimate solution using highly theoretical concepts and huge (yet not necessarily accurate or complete) sets of data on a global scale.
In other words, responsible allows us to quicker and helps overcome indecisiveness and “paralysis by analysis”.