What is sustainability? It has become a huge buzzword but I like this definition: supplying a growing world with food, fuel, feed and fiber — while safeguarding its resources for future generations.

Although a program I attended was sponsored by Undeniably Dairy, an education partnership between the National Dairy Council and America’s dairy farm families, it was really about sustainability as a whole.

In this particular presentation, chef, restaurant owner and television personality Vivian Howard asked three professionals how they would describe “sustainability.” And I must admit, their answers made me think.

“Sustainability is having all the pieces together…taking care of our animals, land and water and having good relations with our neighbors and customers," said Alise Sjostrom, who makes and sells artisan cheese from her family’s dairy farm in Minnesota. "Profitability is also crucial to being sustainable.”

Edouardo Jordan, chef and owner of Salare and JuneBaby restaurants in Seattle, admitted that the definition of sustainability can be vague.

“For me, it means a profitable business that everyone can grow with. That includes working with people with similar goals and having a good relationship with farmers and other suppliers," Jordan said.

"I need to know what my growing cycles will be for menu items. And I need to know what types of seafood are most sustainable when I place orders.”

Cara Harbstreet, intuitive eating registered dietitian, talked more about how to sustain healthful eating habits.

“Sustainability is sustainability of the whole..how my actions influence those around me," Harbstreet said. "We sometimes need to relax some of our rules about dieting. It’s important to eat for our individual self…aligned with our personal values.”

How we can be more sustainable?

“Producers of our food need to be transparent with how we raise our animals and produce food for consumers,” said Sjostrom. “We invite you to visit our farm versus listening to a third party who may have another motive in mind.”

“Define what sustainable is to you personally,” said Jordan. “I look to how I can minimize waste, which we see a lot of in restaurants. Being profitable is also a big part of sustaining a business, so we need to think about portion sizes and composting leftovers.”

“Repurpose leftovers,” Howard added.

She uses onion peels and corn husks in her soup stocks. Brilliant.

“Dairy food is sustainable," explained cheesemaker Sjostrom. "Cows eat grass and produce high-quality milk, which is made into cheese, yogurt and other products.”

This includes whey, a high-quality protein known for its important role in supporting muscle mass.

“Be less rigid with meal planning,” Harbstreet advises. “Ditch the idea of perfectionism and make eating a self-care habit that you can sustain.”

Dutifully noted.

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