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Here at Heifer, we have a set of fundamental principles to guide our work, called the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. One of these Cornerstones is Sustainability and Self-Reliance, and for our project participants, the focus is two-fold: one is for families to continue to thrive after direct support from Heifer has ended; the other is to use their resources in a way that will not deplete or permanently damage those resources, so they and their successors can continue to benefit.

But what does sustainability really mean? As a writer, reader and skimmer of various texts, I know how easy it is to get caught up on certain words.

To say the least, sustainability is a hot-topic, jargoney word (in fact, it was on Advertising Age's top list of "Jargoniest Jargon" Words of 2010. Here on Heifer Blog, we've even got two categories dedicated to it: sustainability and sustainable agriculture.

In an effort to help make sustainability a more digestible–and livable–concept, Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard Gayeton embarked on a three-year journey across the United States to dissect and define the myriad of terms that shape what sustainability means, resulting in the Lexicon of Sustainability.

From the website:

The Lexicon project is based on a simple premise: people can't be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don't even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.

It's a pretty impressive project. Watch the above video to learn more about it, and check out this page to get their full, artful glossary of terms, which includes several we like to use here at Heifer (biodiversity, CSA, food security, to name a few). Their blog includes terms that aren't included yet in the gallery, like food sovereignty, another Heifer favorite.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.