Orange County, NC Sustainability Committee

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Orange County, NC, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Work completed

Source File:


What is sustainability?
The concept of sustainable development was first popularized in 1987 by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), also known as the Brundtland Commission.

In the Commission's report, Our Common Future, the WCED defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs".

The WCED expressed a concern that conventional development often occurs without regard to environmental integrity or social equity, focusing instead on purely economic gains. They distinguished between quantitative growth and qualitative development. While growth refers to quantitative physical changes, such as the building of roads and construction of buildings, development refers to qualitative benefits, such as the provision of a place to live, a job, and a healthy environment.

Sustainable development seeks to provide for inevitable growth while fulfilling the goals of development in a sustainable way. It pursues ecological integrity and natural resource conservation as well as the satisfaction of basic human needs through quality economic development and social equity.

Purpose and Tasks of the Sustainability Committee:
The Sustainability Committee was created to ensure that the overall Shaping Orange County’s Future effort has an underlying structure based on the concepts of sustainability. This committee worked with sustainability consultant Kit McGinnis to define sustainability, formulate principles for sustainability that can be incorporated into future decision-making processes, develop indicators to measure change and local quality of life, and ensure that the SOCF effort is consistent with sustainability concepts.

Tasks of the Sustainability Committee were to:

  • Develop a definition of sustainable community
  • Develop principles of sustainability to serve as the foundation for making well-informed choices and to provide defensible justification for decisions that move the County toward sustainability
  • Develop goals of sustainability which further define what is meant by sustainability, and provide direction for achieving sustainability
  • Develop sustainability indicators that measure whether the County is moving toward or away from being sustainable. Without benchmarks and measurements of change, a community has no way of determining the direction of current trends or how well programs are performing and contributing to the community’s quality of life. By definition, indicators are measurements of particular conditions or specific actions that reflect the status of a larger system’s operation. Since sustainable development is concerned with complex societal and ecological issues, it is necessary to develop a set of indicators that reflect the various components of these complex systems. Many communities have developed their own set of indicators to translate the general goals of sustainability into concrete objectives and to monitor development in relation to these objectives.
  • Create a Final Report to be presented to the Task Force. To see a copy of the report click here.