Sustainability Principles and Practice (Paperback) book cover

Sustainability Principles and Practice

By Margaret Robertson

© 2014 – Routledge

392 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415840187
pub: 2014-01-20
Hardback: 9780415840170
pub: 2014-01-24
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203768747
pub: 2014-03-14
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About the Book

Sustainability Principles and Practice gives an accessible and comprehensive overview of the interdisciplinary field of sustainability. The focus is on furnishing solutions and equipping the student with both conceptual understanding and technical skills for the workplace. Each chapter explores one aspect of the field, first introducing relevant theory and presenting issues, then supplying tools for working toward solutions. Elements of sustainability are examined piece by piece, and wide 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.

Chapters include further reading, discussion questions, and problems to foster quantitative thinking. The book is supported by a companion website with key website links, detailed reading lists, glossary, and additional case studies, together with numerous projects, research problems, and group activities, all of which focus on real-world problem solving of sustainability issues.

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


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

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. It broadens our understanding of sustainability beyond minimizing adverse environmental impacts, including as well how to create more satisfying and productive lives through a more affirmative relationship to the natural world.

–Stephen R. Kellert, Yale 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

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

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, The University of Manchester, UK

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

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. EdwardsFounder, 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 Practices, 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 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

Until now it has been challenging to find a textbook suitable for introductory classes on sustainability. Using a systems approach, Professor Robertson presents a comprehensive treatment of sustainability fundamentals, organized in a logical and very understandable manner. It also makes clear the integrative nature of the sustainability paradigm, and the challenges it presents to modern societies.

–Tom Theis, Director, Institute for Environmental Science & Policy University of Illinois, USA

While covering a broad and diverse range of topics, principles and concepts, the author – Margaret Robertson who coordinates the Sustainability Coordinator Degree Program at Lane Community College at Eugene, Oregon – succeeds in distilling the essentials that students and an increasing number of professionally and otherwise interested readers need to know about sustainable development.

– Luc Hens, Environment, Development and Sustainability

Table of Contents

Part 1: Context 1. What Is Sustainability? 2. A Brief History of Sustainability 3. The Biosphere 4. The Human Sphere 5. Putting Sustainability into Practice Part 2: Issues and Solutions 6. Climate 7. Water 8. Ecosystems and Habitat 9. Pollution 10. Energy 11. Food 12. Green Buildings and Sites 13. Livable Cities 14. Products 15. Waste, and Recycling Part 3: Becoming an Agent for Change 16. Working in an Organization 17. Education: Preparing a New Generation to Live Well in a Changing World 18. Working as Agents for Change

About the Author

Margaret Robertson, a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), is coordinator of the Sustainability Coordinator degree program at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, USA, and a Sustainability Fellow in the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy


Colloquium, February 2015:
In "Sustainability: Surviving and Thriving in a Changing World," Sustainability Principles and Practice author Margaret Robertson offers an overview of this broad and diverse field. Themes include a view of the biosphere as the “instruction manual” on which all sustainability work is modeled, connections between the human sphere and the biosphere, and the possibilities for a regenerative future in a healthy and sustainable world.

Part 1: What Is Sustainability? The Biosphere. Water

Part 2: Ecosystems and Habitat. Climate. The Human Sphere. Products. Waste and Recycling 

Part 3: Green Buildings. Livable Cities. Food. Working as Agents for Change.

Sustainability Principles and Practice, September 2014:
This link takes the user to the Routledge Sustainability Hub homepage, where a video of the author introducing Sustainability Principles and Practice can be found.

Sustainability: Prose and Poetry, April 2014:
In "Sustainability: Prose and Poems," Sustainability Principles and Practice author Margaret Robertson and poet Howard W. Robertson illustrate how themes of sustainability, interconnectedness, and the biosphere can be expressed in multiple ways using the language of prose and of poetry. The readers give an overview of the fundamental concepts on which this interdisciplinary field is built, offering the dual perspectives of scholarship and lyrical writing in service of its essential meaning.

Part 1:
Prose: What Is Sustainability? The Biosphere. Water. Ecosystems and Habitat.
Poetry: Quantum Intimations at the grand Multnomah
Prose: The Human Sphere. Green Buildings. Livable Cities. Food. Products. Waste and Recycling.

Part 2:
Poetry: Scholar’s rocks: the ode about bacteria
Prose: Climate. Working as Agents for Change.

Interview, Sustainable Cities Collective, February 2014:
The Sustainable Cities Collective, a site from the UK for urban planners and sustainability professionals, interviews Sustainability Principles and Practice author Margaret Robertson for a conversation about Smart Growth and sustainable urbanism.