Sustainability Through a Social Lens

“Consequential strangers” comprise the relationship piece of sustainability, which Wikipedia defines broadly as, “the potential for long-term maintenance of well being.”

Increasingly and throughout the world, we have begun to coalesce around the notion that we have to make some big changes.  Sustainability is driving us to rethink the way we use our resources, build our communities, and run our businesses. It is making us question our habits of consumption and connection, forcing us, gradually or abruptly, to face three powerful new social realities:

  • I can’t do it alone or just with my loved ones.
  • I can’t act as if I am the only one who counts.
  • I have to extend my social reach beyond what is familiar and comfortable.

New urbanists will design model cities.  Socially conscious businesses will develop ways to conserve energy.   Slow food advocates will highlight the importance of buying local.  Laws will be passed to reduce our carbon footprint. But sustainability will not be achieved by fiat.  It will hinge on connection.  And it will succeed, as past movements have, on the collective energies of consequential strangers who come together with a shared purpose.

The good news is that the relationship piece of sustainability requires no organization, no administration–only a mindset.  To paraphrase Dr. King, I have a dream that all people of the world will someday see themselves as part of a Consequential Stranger Corps.

It’s a simple idea:   Scan your social landscape for a consequential stranger who needs a little help or cheering up, someone who could learn something from you.  Your gesture can be planned or spontaneous, happen in a moment or involve a longer-term commitment, take place in your neighborhood or, thanks to technology, half-way across the world.   You can help a peer or–even better–someone much younger or older.  Share a new way of doing or thinking about something, make an extra meal, take a few minutes to listen, give an unexpected compliment or invitation.

I can’t help but believe that the more we value, and connect with, the everyday people we encounter, the more likely we are to insure our “long term maintenance of well being.”   Indeed, if you look anywhere today, where positive change is happening, where dialogues are yielding new practices, and where people are being cared for and cared about, you’ll find clusters of consequential strangers, reaching out across traditional divides.

One Response to “Sustainability Through a Social Lens”

  1. Consequential Strangers » Blog Archive » Lancome: Not Just a Pretty Face–a “Green” One, Too Says:

    […] In contrast, the green model, which is part of the sustainability movement, is mindful of a “triple bottom line”–profit, planet, and people.  “Success” is not just about dollars and cents.  It’s also measured in terms of a company’s impact on the environment and on the people it serves–its consequential strangers.  (See “Sustainability Through a Social Lens”) […]

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