3rd Edition

Sustainability Principles and Practice

By Margaret Robertson Copyright 2021
    554 Pages
    by Routledge

    554 Pages
    by Routledge

    554 Pages
    by Routledge

    Also available as eBook on:

    Sustainability Principles and Practice gives an accessible and comprehensive overview of the interdisciplinary field of sustainability. The focus is on furnishing solutions and equipping students with both conceptual understanding and technical skills. Each chapter explores one aspect of the field, first introducing concepts and presenting issues, then supplying tools for working toward solutions. Elements of sustainability are examined piece by piece, and coverage ranges over ecosystems, social equity, environmental justice, food, energy, product life cycles, cities, and more. Techniques for management and measurement as well as case studies from around the world are provided.

    The 3rd edition includes greater coverage of resilience and systems thinking, an update on the Anthropocene as a formal geological epoch, the latest research from the IPCC, and a greater focus on diversity and social equity, together with new details such as sustainable consumption, textiles recycling, microplastics, and net-zero concepts. The coverage in this edition has been expanded to include issues, solutions, and new case studies from around the world, including Europe, Asia, and the Global South. 

    Chapters include further reading and discussion questions. The book is supported by a companion website with online links, annotated bibliography, glossary, white papers, and additional case studies, together with projects, research problems, and group activities, all of which focus on real-world problem-solving of sustainability issues.

    This textbook is designed to be used by undergraduate college and university students in sustainability degree programs and other programs in which sustainability is taught.

    PART I: Context  1 What Is Sustainability?  2 A Brief History of Sustainability  3 The Biosphere  4 The Human Sphere  PART II: Issues and Solutions  5 Climate  6 Water  7 Ecosystems and Habitat  8 Pollution  9 Energy  10 Green Buildings 11 Sustainable Sites 12 Livable Cities  13 Food  14 Products  15 Waste and Recycling  PART III: Becoming an Agent for Change   16 Working in an Organization  17 Education  18 Working as Agents for Change


    Margaret Robertson is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and teaches at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, USA, where she is a coordinator of the Sustainability degree program.

    "This is by far the most comprehensive book on sustainability science and practice out there.  It should be a core reference for anyone interested in this field. It is also a key source for solutions to creating a sustainable and desirable future for humans and the rest of nature."

    Robert Costanza, Professor, VC's Chair in Public Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University, Founding director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Australia

     "Sustainability Principles and Practice is an outstanding overview of a wide-ranging global discussion that will lead either to human survival or planetary failure. What is sustainable? How are practitioners bringing principles of sustainability into various industries and disciplines? Every thinking person needs to find their place in the sustainability transition, and this book helps by mapping the territory reliably and fairly."

    Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute, USA

    "Sustainabilty Principles and Practice is like an expertly crafted salad—nutritionally dense and filled with flavor! This is an intense, comprehensive introduction to sustainability. You’ll have to chew, but when you’re finished you’ll be full of new knowledge and definitely satiated!"

    Erik Assadourian, Sustainability Researcher and Educator, USA

    "A thorough and dependable guide to the most important issues of our time and what must be done by the rising generation . . .  highly recommended for courses across the curriculum."

    David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Oberlin College, USA

    Praise for the previous editions

    "Achieving sustainability is the single most important challenge facing humanity, and yet few people realize it.  If every student read this text the chances of civilization averting a collapse would be substantially improved."

    Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University, USA


    "Everyone thinks they know what sustainability is, but few people truly understand it--and fewer still can explain it well. Robertson cuts through the greenwash and the clichés with a top-notch exploration of the topic in all its complexities. It's an enjoyable read that's both thoroughly grounded in science and steeped in wonder at our fascinating, fragile planet."

    Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute, USA


    "Margaret Robertson has produced the closest thing yet to a comprehensive textbook on what is a crucial subject. The book provides a grounding in the key challenges while also communicating the potential solutions in a clear and positive fashion. It is equipped to become an essential go-to text for both students of sustainability and those working in the field."

    James Evans, University of Manchester, UK

     "This book provides much needed and relevant information on the theory and practice of sustainability.  It is comprehensive and useful with practical applications in a wide range of human endeavors."

    Stephen R. Kellert, Yale University, USA

    "This book provides a comprehensive overview of the state of our earth systems and what we can do to positively impact change. The book can be used for both undergraduate and graduate education, and across a variety of disciplines. I learned something new at every turn of the page."

    Kevin Dooley, Arizona State University, USA

     "The great strength of Robertson’s book is its breadth of coverage. From marketing to life cycle costing to the latest science on climate change, Sustainability Principles and Practice serves as a welcoming guide into the often jargon-laden field of sustainability."

    Jay Antle, Johnson County Community College, USA

    "This book is a solid and well-crafted introduction to the field, conveying both the substance and the heart of sustainability work with style and grace. It will help students and other new entrants to the field get oriented to the special interdisciplinary challenges of sustainability, and to its core mission: helping us learn to be better caretakers of our planetary future."

    Alan AtKisson, President & CEO AtKisson Inc., USA & AtKisson Europe AB, Sweden. President, ISIS Academy GmbH, Germany. Member, President’s Science and Technology Advisory Council (PSTAC), European Commission

    "This is an important book. Robertson has a keen sense of the situation and an even keener sense of alternatives and means to achieve them. The author gives it to you the way it is and then provides some important pointers to resilient futures. This book contains both a diagnosis and a treatment. Read it."

    Simon Bell, Open University, UK

    "An organized, engaging, and even inspiring collection of ideas that—if internalized and used to inform policies—would enable societies to thrive within a healthy environment. I wish this book had been available when I was first learning about social and environmental systems."

    Robert Dietz, Editor, The Daly News, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

    "A comprehensive and practical map of the evolving field of sustainability. This well-organized and thoroughly researched textbook provides both students and educators with a useful guide to the essential sustainability topics. Robertson delivers an important work that will help to define the knowledge base in the sustainability field."

    Andrés R. Edwards, Founder, EduTracks, USA. Author of The Sustainability Revolution and Thriving Beyond Sustainability

    "Robertson places sustainability in the connectedness between human culture and the living world. She links technical knowledge with tools for developing positive solutions and putting them into effect, including working collaboratively in organizations with other people."

    Bruce K. Ferguson, University of Georgia, USA

    "Robertson has distilled the essential background information that students, our rising decision-makers, need so that they can follow her clearly defined roadmap to a sustainable future for the planet."

    Lee Kump, Pennsylvania State University, USA

    "Sustainability Principles and Practice covers a broad range of topics, principles and concepts—at several scales from energy, water, pollution, ecosystems, food, and cities—to a charge to future ‘agents for change’ at policy, institutional, and personal, experiential levels. A must-have book to refresh your knowledge and to make a better world."

    Alison Kwok, University of Oregon, USA

    "From now on when someone asks me what is sustainability, I will tell them to read Margaret Robertson’s book, Sustainability Principles and Practice, which presents clearly and thoroughly the multi-faceted concept of sustainability in a very readable form."

    Norbert Lechner, Auburn University, USA

    "Everyone thinks they know what sustainability is, but few people truly understand it—and fewer still can explain it well. Robertson cuts through the greenwash and the clichés with a top-notch exploration of the topic in all its complexities. It’s an enjoyable read that’s both thoroughly grounded in science and steeped in wonder at our fascinating, fragile planet."

    Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute, USA

    "Robertson’s incisive analysis is both global and specific, comprehensive and inclusive. There is careful blending of facts and values, what is and what ought to be. You will find yourself engaged. I guarantee it."

    Holmes Rolston, III, Colorado State University, USA

    "This book grabbed my attention and kept me engaged. The focus on creating solutions is refreshing. This publication will enhance and deepen the work of any general reader, student or faculty member working to bring sustainability into the curricula."

    Debra Rowe, Oakland Community College, USA

    "This book masterfully integrates human and natural systems and the relationships between them into a grand and detailed picture of the world we live in. It provides a highly accessible introduction to sustainability suitable for anyone who cares about where we are going as a species, translating this knowledge into practical action."

    Arran Stibbe, University of Gloucestershire, UK

    "This is a comprehensive, useful account of what sustainability is all about and what is needed for building it. It describes the many facets that collectively determine the degree to which a system, at any scale, is sustainable, and explains how they interact. It is a valuable guide and reference for anyone wishing to get involved in the practice of sustainability."

    Brian Walker, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Australia. Author of Resilience Thinking

    "Sustainability champions practice systems thinking, connecting the dots between green buildings, sustainable cities, corporate CSR, and all the global sustainability megaforces besieging us. This book is their indispensable primer and wonderfully practical handbook to ensure they are effective change agents. It is a coherent encyclopedia of sustainability issues, with answers."

    Bob Willard, Sustainability Advantage, Canada