From a letter to the editor by Marty Anderson in the Marshfield News Herald:

In my capacity as chairman of the Sustainable Marshfield Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to present throughout central Wisconsin about sustainability principles. In each presentation, I begin by defining what sustainability is, because the word is often overused and not well defined when it is used.

Put simply, sustainability is defined as living and working in ways that do not jeopardize our current and future social, environmental and economic resources. In other words, we can’t take away from the ability of future generations to have a standard of living similar or better than our own conditions today.

In February 2007, the city of Marshfield approved a resolution to become one of the first sustainable communities in the state. In doing so, we also adopted the sustainability framework called The Natural Step, originally founded in Sweden by Dr. Karl Henrik Robèrt in 1989. The Natural Step is made up of four basic principles:

• Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels and extracted underground metals and minerals.

• Reduce dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in nature.

• Reduce dependence on activities that harm life-sustaining ecosystems.

• Meet the hierarchy of present and future human needs fairly and efficiently.

These principles are purposely general in their scope. Dr. Robèrt was trying to create a vision for a sustainable definition that everyone can agree with and support. In addition, it gives those working on implementing sustainability a litmus test to determine if what they are doing is moving their community towards sustainability.

Anderson, a former alderman and the current chairman of the Sustainable Marshfield Committee, be reached by e-mail at