Sustainability is expressed as meeting present environmental, social, and economic needs without compromising these factors for future generations A practice cannot be said to be 'sustainable for X years/generations.' The use of any span of time disqualifies the activity. Sustainability is for perpetuity.
Sustainability also means greater efficiency in resource use, ultimately giving benefits to economic growth and overcoming poverty, as well as health and quality of life.
Sustainable design and sustainable development are critical factors to sustainable living. Sustainable design encompasses the development of appropriate technology, which is a staple of sustainable living practices. Sustainable development in turn is the use of these technologies in infrastructure. Sustainable architecture (see Green building) and agriculture are the most common examples of this practice.
Industrial hand pumps, such as the Indian Mark II, for communal wells donated by development projects often break down after two years. If maintenance costs are the responsibility of the users, then this cost is too high when repairs prove necessary and the pump is left nonfunctional.
An alternative reliable hand pump is needed for communal and private use to supply clean drinking water and irrigation. These pumps will raise the standard of living if they are low cost, reliable and pump water effectively. Efficiency is critical to irrigate a garden in the dry season due to the relatively large amount of water involved. Such gardens provide food and increased income.
Local affordability, maintenance and good pump efficiency are required features. Local affordability means a twenty-to-hundred-fold cost reduction compared to imported industrial goods. Local maintenance is only possible when made with local resources and skills.
Creating a solar cooker out of local invasive species and waste materials in order to pasteurize water and be an alternative to the use of fossil fuels for cooking food.