The Green Triangle
The Green Triangle, or Sustainability Triangle, is a concept about which I was recently having a conversation with a friend. I stumbled through explaining the concept: roughly every action that you take can be plotted on a triangle. The three points of the triangle are economics, social equity, and the environment. I know that my incredible diagram below is making you question whether or not I was a famous artist in a previous life. The answer is clearly ‘or not’.
Many choices a person makes can be plotted on this triangle, and the best choice is one that equally respects all three of these issues. For example, taking the bus (or other form of transportation besides a car) is economical because it costs less money, it is environmentally friendly because you are cutting down on your emissions and producing less waste, and it is good for social equity because you are supporting a system that benefits the public good. In some cases, I have seen health replace social equity. While I have problems of symmetry (there is no way to get health to start with an ‘E’ – i know – i have tried), the alternative transportation issue still works: you get more exercise walking to a bus stop or riding your bike than you do walking to your car. Many things can fall onto this scale. A few examples:
- Making your own cleaning materials
- Eating organic or locally produced food
- Supporting your local parks by using them for healthy activities
- Reducing your energy consumption
- Properly disposing of things instead of dumping things down storm drains
- Using less pesticides
- Drinking tap water (with a filter if you must)
This is just a list I came up with in the past 15 seconds, so I am quite sure it is no where near inclusive. As we push this triangle further, we can plot points within the triangle to compare 2 or more situations. Lets return to our walk or take public transportation dilemma. Riding a bike or walking fairs best in all three categories, so points are plotted closest to the words in the left triangle. While taking public transportation does well also, clearly it is not as good as walking, so
the triangle on the right is slightly smaller. The idea is, bigger the triangle better the option. Now, clearly this ‘decision matrix’, if you will, is not perfect. There is no axis for ‘it is cold, there is 8 feet of snow, and I have to go 20 miles.’ (although one could argue economic use of ones time in that situation, I feel) However, I think that this is an interesting concept that I like to keep in the back of my mind when making decisions. For a more in-depth explanation, I recommend this 3 minute YouTube video.