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Sustainability: Introduction

The Three Pillars

Concentric circles representing the interaction among the 3 pillars

Sustainability recognizes the interactions between the environment, social justice and economics.[2]


Description of three spheres of sustainability

Click to Enlarge. The three pillars, or spheres, are the 'triple bottom line' and require a balancing act.  [3]



[1] World Commission on Environment and Development. "Our Common Future." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. 43.

[2] "Cornell Sustainable Campus." 2006. <>.

[3] Vanderbilt University. "Sustainability at Vanderbilt." 2007. <>.




This guide provides resources for people interested in sustainability, in general, and offers support for teaching, learning and research at Temple University.  

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."[1]


The Temple Definition of Sustainability

The study of sustainability addresses core questions regarding the nature of “the good life” and ways to organize societies that sustain the well-being of the biosphere for now and in the future. Sustainable perspectives weave together disparate ways of thinking, integrate knowledge from different disciplines, and consider both global and local issues and the relationships between them. At Temple University, sustainable curricula, operations, research, and engagement address systemic connections among five interrelated dimensions:

  • natural environment
  • built environment
  • public health
  • energy
  • meaning systems

(Temple Sustainability Teaching Circle.  May 2009)

Temple University

Office of Sustainability. Temple University.


Gretchen Sneff's picture
Gretchen Sneff
Paley Library, room 202