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Green vs Sustainable

 , updated on July 26, 2023
Green is is often applied to practices that seek to protect the environment. Sustainable is a similar term that seeks to both protect the environment and improve quality of life for people.
In practice, the two terms are often used interchangeably but they represent slightly different approaches to the same set of problems.

Limits vs Win-Win

Both green and sustainable practices represent an incredibly diverse set of ideas and techniques. Generally speaking, the difference between them comes down to their approach to people.
The activities of people are the cause of environmental problems. In other words, if people didn't exist there wouldn't be an environmental crisis. In some cases, green approaches recommend limits to population, economic growth and consumption.
Sustainability is far more focused on quality of life as measured by people's self-reported happiness. People have a tendency to want to grow and be prosperous. As such, sustainability typically embraces economic growth. Sustainability looks for win-win scenarios that allow communities to grow while driving their impact on the environment towards zero.
The difference between the two approaches comes down to limits. The Earth's resources are surely limited. In some cases, green advocates scaling back economic activity. Sustainability tends to be on the side of expanding activities in a way that has far less impact.
Technological progress created environmental problems and could potentially solve them. The rapid advancement of technologies such as solar panels is a prominent example.
If technology were used to reduce human impact as opposed to rapidly expanding it, communities could have economic growth while saving the world. At least that's the idea.
Green vs Sustainable
Green
Sustainable
Definition
Practices that address environmental issues often with the goal of reducing environmental impacts to zero.
Practices that improve quality of life and address environmental issues.
Prioritizes
Planet
People
Planet

Sustainability

This is the complete list of articles we have written about sustainability.
Adaptive Reuse
Anthropocene
Biochar
Broken Window Fallacy
Carbon Concrete
Cascading Failure
Circular Economy
Cities
Clean Air Zone
Clean Label
Climate Engineering
CO2 Per Capita
Coal Power
Comparative Risk
Creeping Normality
Cultural Lag
Cycle Highway
Daylighting
Deconstruction
Deep Water Cooling
Dematerialization
Disaster Preparedness
District Heating
Do No Harm
Do Nothing Farming
Dollar Voting
Downcycling
Durability
Economic Bad
Ecotax
Efficiency
Electric Boat
Embodied Energy
Environmental Issues
Environmental Justice
Environmental Problems
Existential Risk
Farm Robots
Fertilizer Tree
Fire Ecology
Food Sovereignty
Forest Dieback
Fruit Bagging
Future-Proofing
Global Change
Global Issues
Global Warming
Green Facade
Green Facades
Green Industry
Green Roof
Green Walls
Greenwashing
Happiness Economics
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Holocene Extinction
Human Scale
Jevons Paradox
Keyhole Garden
Keystone Species
Land Footprint
Light Pollution
Living Street
Market Failure
Material Diversity
Microplastics
Missing Market
Moral Hazard
Natural Capital
Natural Resources
Nearly Car Free
Noise Pollution
Ocean Plastic Cleanup
Outside Context Problem
Overconsumption
Particulate Matter
Parts
Passive Design
Point Of No Return
Pollution
Polyculture
Precautionary Principle
Product Transparency
Quality Of Life
Race To The Bottom
Rainwater Harvesting
Repair Cafe
Resilience
Resilient Cities
Reusability
Reuse
Rewilding
Right To Know
Safety By Design
Scarcity
Silvopasture
Slow Design
Slow Movement
Smart Glass
Social Responsibility
Soft Engineering
Soil Carbon
Space Junk
Sunlight Transport
Superabundance
Sustainability
Sustainable Design
Sustainable Economics
Sustainable Lighting
Sustainable Materials
Tactical Urbanism
Uneconomic Growth
Upcycling
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Heat Island
Urban Reforestation
Waste Is Food
Water Security
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