Inspiring Quotes about Sustainability and Green Living

These quotes about sustainability and Green Living all shed light on one of the most important issues of the current age.

What is Sustainable Living?

Sustainability, the long-term viability of a community, set of social institutions, or societal practice.

In general, sustainability is understood as a form of intergenerational ethics in which the environmental and economic actions taken by present persons do not diminish the opportunities of future persons to enjoy similar levels of wealth, utility, or welfare.

House in Norway on island
Design your life ©Alain

The idea of sustainability rose to prominence with the modern environmental movement, which rebuked the unsustainable character of contemporary societies where patterns of resource use, growth, and consumption threatened the integrity of ecosystems and the well-being of future generations.

Sustainability is presented as an alternative to short-term, myopic, and wasteful behaviours.

It can serve as a standard against which existing institutions are to be judged and as an objective toward which society should move.

Sustainability also implies an interrogation of existing modes of social organization to determine the extent to which they encourage destructive practices as well as a conscious effort to transform the status quo so as to promote the development of more-sustainable activities.

Quotes about Sustainability

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

– R. Buckminster Fuller

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

Howard Zinn

“The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.”

– Ross Perot

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development – and turn it into a reality for all the world’s people”

– Kofi Annan Quotes about Sustainability

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

“Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Better practices ©Levan Badzgaradze

Gro Harlem Brundtland  

“Quality of life is here considered to be something incompatible with artificial, material standards above that necessary for the satisfaction of fundamental needs, and secondly, that ecological considerations are to be regarded as preconditions for life quality, therefore not outside human responsibility…The lifestyle of the majority should be changed so that the material standard of living in the Western countries becomes universalisable within this century.”

“A consumption over and above that which everyone can attain within the foreseeable future cannot be justified.”

Arne Næss, Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy

“GNP is therefore in a certain sense a value-neutral quantity: a measure of activity, not of activity of any kind of value. A first argument against continued growth is just this. The GNP does not give any guarantee of meaningfulness of that which is created. Growth in GNP does not imply any growth in access to intrinsic values and progress along the course of self-realization.

“Obviously any kind of economic growth which is not related to intrinsic values is neutral or detrimental.”

“The measure of GNP is somehow related to the fierceness of activity in the society but this fierceness may very well have more to do with a lack of ability of the members of the society to engage in meaningful activity than a measure of something humanity should look upon with joy. There is no clear relation to life quality.”

Arne Næss, Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy

“Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life.”

– George Monbiot Quotes about Sustainability

“We are often told we are materialistic. It seems to me we are not materialistic enough. We have a disrespect for materials. We use it quickly and carelessly.”

“If were genuinely materialistic people, we would understand where materials come from and where they go to.”

“But, at the moment, the entire global economy seems to be built on the model of digging things up from one hole in the ground on one side of the earth, transporting them around the world, using them for a few days, and sticking them in a hole in the ground on the other side of the world.”

– George Monbiot Quotes about Sustainability

quotes about sustainabilty and ocean clean up
Ocean clean up ©OCG

“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.”

– Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

“The metaphor is so obvious. Easter Island isolated in the Pacific Ocean — once the island got into trouble, there was no way they could get free. There was no other people from whom they could get help. In the same way that we on Planet Earth, if we ruin our own [world], we won’t be able to get help.”

Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

“For anyone inclined to caricature environmental history as ‘environmental determinism,’ the contrasting histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti provide a useful antidote. Yes, environmental problems do constrain human societies, but the societies’ responses also make a difference.”

– Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

“The best way to predict future is to create it.” 

– Peter Drucker Quotes about Sustainability

“Sustainability is a political choice, not a technical one. It’s not a question of whether we can be sustainable, but whether we choose to be”

– Gary Lawrence

Women planting trees
New life ©Eyoel Kahssa

“There must be a better way to make the things we want, a way that doesn’t spoil the sky, or the rain or the land”

– Paul McCartney

“No matter how complex global problems may seem, it is we ourselves who have given rise to them. They cannot be beyond our power to resolve”

– Daisaku Ikeda Quotes about Sustainability

“The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the bedrock of our enterprise for a sustainable world”

– Narendra Modi

“The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.”

– Paul Hawken

“Without environmental sustainability, economic stability and social cohesion cannot be achieved.”

– Phil Harding

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

– Edmund Burke

“Our ancestors did great work for humanity. What will we do for the next generations?”

– Lailah Gifty Akita

“Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations.”

– Jean-Paul Richter

plants and pots hanging on the wall.
Reuse and recycle ©Bernard Hermant

“Building a world where we meet our own needs without denying future generations a healthy society is not impossible, as some would assert. The question is where societies choose to put their creative efforts.”

– Christopher Flavin

“We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.”

– Adlai E. Stevenson

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.”

– Stewart Udall

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”

– Thomas Fuller

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

– Cree Native American Proverb

Man and woman planting and quotes about sustainability
Gorwth ©Daniel furnesfuentes

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.”

– Carl Sagan

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

– Albert A. Bartlett

“An act of violence against nature should be judged as severely as that against society or another person.”

– Dr. Michael W.Fox

“In America today, you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops.”

– Paul Brooks

“People ‘over-produce’ pollution because they are not paying for the costs of dealing with it.”

– Ha-Joon Chang Quotes about Sustainability

“Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.”

– Henrik Tikkanen

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge.”

– Thomas Edison

quotes about sustainability and the mountains
Explore the wild ©Guillaume Briard

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

– Ansel Adams Quotes about Sustainability

“Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplify, simplify, simplify! Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.”

– Henry Thoreau

“The difference between animals and humans is that animals change themselves for the environment, but humans change the environment for themselves.”

– Ayn Rand Quotes about Sustainability

“Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.”

– William Ruckelshaus

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”


“It is not reasonable that art should win the place of honuor over our great and powerful mother nature. We have so overloaded the beauty and richness of her works by our inventions that we have quite smothered her.”

– Michel de Montaigne, Cannibales

“A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman of the next generation.”

– James Freeman Clarke

Forms of Sustainability

Sustainability is at the core of concepts such as sustainable yield, sustainable society, and sustainable development. The term sustainable yield refers to the harvest of a specific (self-renewing) natural resource—for example, timber or fish.

Such a yield is one that can in principle be maintained indefinitely because it can be supported by the regenerative capacities of the underlying natural system.

A sustainable society is one that has learned to live within the boundaries established by ecological limits. It can be maintained as a collective and ongoing entity because practices that imposed excessive burdens upon the environment have been reformed or abolished.

Sustainable development is a process of social advancement that accommodates the needs of current and future generations and that successfully integrates economic, social, and environmental considerations in decision making.

In contemporary debate, sustainability often serves as a synonym for sustainable development. On other occasions, it is associated more exclusively with environmental constraints or environmental performance, and the expression environmental sustainability is used to emphasize that point.

Parallel references can be found to the terms social sustainability, economic sustainability, and cultural sustainability, which allude to threats to long-term well-being in each of those domains. Local sustainability emphasizes the importance of place.

Corporate sustainability is another common usage, which relates both to the survivability of the individual corporation and to the contribution that corporations can make to the broader sustainability agenda.

Central here is the notion of the so-called triple bottom line—that businesses should pay attention to social performance and environmental performance as well as to financial returns.

The notion of corporate sustainability is also connected to debates about reforming corporate governance, encouraging corporate responsibility, and designing alternative (sustainable, green, or ethical) investment vehicles.

Quotes about Sustainability

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