What is sustainability?

The U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 declared as its goal a national policy to "create and maintain conditions under which [humans] and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."

In its early days EPA acted primarily as the nation's environmental watchdog, striving to ensure that businesses met the legal requirements in the area of pollution control. Implementing pollution control, however, also required big investments in time, money, and other resources.

Over time EPA began to develop ways to move from pollution control to pollution prevention. This effort sparked a new generation of innovative approaches to environmental protection. Market-based economic instruments – such as "cap-and-trade" programs to limit air pollution, public-private partnerships, public reporting by industry, and voluntary programs – were all implemented to help businesses not only meet environmental regulations, but exceed them.

Today, EPA aims to make sustainability the next level of environmental protection drawing on advances in science and technology, application of diverse government regulations and policies, and promoting green business practices. http://www.epa.gov/Sustainability

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