What is sustainability?

Bled_jesenske_Jost_Gantar_MALA (26)© Jošt Gantar

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'sustainability' /səsteɪnəˈbɪlɪti/ as 1. the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level (Source).

The definition does not talk about the environment, ecology, food or transport but simply about the natural order of balance and the ability to see and maintain everything at a certain level, resisting the urge to want more.

When did we lose sight of what is ‘enough’? When did we start behaving as if natural resources were inexhaustible, as if we owned everything, as if the world only existed to serve our needs?

Umanotera, the Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development, raises similar questions in its New Year greeting:

In the year that is drawing to an end we were forced to think about the price we are paying for our current way of life, our endless struggle for economic growth and our disregard for social, healthcare and environmental systems. On the other hand, it was in this same year that we again began to appreciate the importance of nature, clean environment and community. We were amazed by the strength of solidarity and help which wrote (and continue to write) numerous stories of success and proudly confirm the declaration that “there is no greater power than the community discovering what it cares about” (Source)

 

Sustainable development in Bled  

Bled_pletne_grad

If anywhere, then here in Bled we must talk about sustainability. If any time, then now! The year 2020 will go down in the history of Bled as the year when the town, as well as the rest of the world, was hit by the pandemic, and as the year when Lake Bled has sent us all a wonderful and unforgettable message: Change the way you live! The algal bloom that dyed the lake red in the early spring was a cry for help, and it was so loud we could not ignore it (Source)

Sustainability can (and must) seep into all pores of our lives. We have a responsibility for the environment, for the living beings we share it with and, most of all, for those who will follow. Self-deception aside, sustainability is about sacrifice, changing the habits we have been accustomed to since we were born; sustainability is about small steps that each of us has to take and about huge steps of the community – from the village where you live, to the country, and further on to the global order.

 

Green, how I want you green

SLO_green-destination_gold

Nearly three years have passed since Bled joined the large and picturesque family of the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism (More information) In 2021 we are up for a recertification audit that will assess our compliance with six sets of criteria, and a total of 100 questions. Have we made a step forward, backward, or are we running in place? The answer will be known by March 2021. It is encouraging that at the Global Green Destinations Day 2020 Bled was again ranked among the World’s Top 100 Sustainable Destinations (More information).

Logo-Sustainable_Dest_2020 - kopija

Such recognition is a commitment for the future. This may sound like a cliché, but the fact is that first and foremost this commitment has to be embraced by the local community, the people who live in the area, and it has to be supported by tourism operators and, of course, the state.

The local community seems to be up for it. In the survey that the Municipality of Bled and its provider of the new municipal sustainable development plan for the period until 2030, 70% of respondents said that they support sustainable development and restrictions on visitation.

development-scenarios-bled

Figure 1: Support for the Municipality's development plan. Source: Sustainable Development Strategy of the Municipality of Bled 2030, May 2020.

The people of Bled support sustainable measures. According to the survey, the majority of respondents support protection of water sources, lake improvement projects, and the construction of the southern relief road. It is exciting and inspiring to see that the citizens did not rank highest any investments into roads, except for the mentioned relief road. This means that Bled residents do not consider sustainability as an imaginary concept but rather as concrete projects for the future.  

 

The future depends on the young

F010162-cebelar_in_otroci_cebelnjak_jost_gantar_1-photo-m© Jošt Gantar, www.slovenia.info

And what about the future? Today’s working-age population is setting the foundations, but the young will sow the seed. The Bled kindergarten and school are involved in many sustainable projects aimed at growing food and separating waste.   

According to an old Slovenian saying, the future depends on the young. But in fact, in order for the young to do their share we first have to leave them with something to build on. One of the projects that will never be fully completed is the “zero-waste” community. The Municipality of Bled has joined the project under the auspices of the NGO Ecologists Sans Frontiers, which gives the following definition of zero-waste:

»Zero Waste: The zero-waste concept translates to the preservation of all resources by producing, reusing and recovering products, packaging and materials responsibly, without being burned or separated into land, water or air that could threaten the health of ecosystems or people” (Source).

Are we already a zero-waste municipality? Not by far, this is a task for many generations, and Bled often stresses that it is on the road to zero-waste society. But the road is long. How long it is and what obstacles lay ahead is something that we will talk about in one of the following blogs.

Stay healthy, live sustainably!

Romana Purkart, Green Coordinator of Bled

 

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