Psalm 89:11: The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.

The hills of southeast Ohio contain a portion of one of the oldest and most biodiverse forests on the planet. Backroads towns that once depended on coal mining to survive now purchase their energy from renewable sources. Small, sustainable farms dot the landscape, growing everything from cows to goats to native fruits and berries. Gone are the days of clear-cutting whole swaths of land, coal companies that owned entire towns, and farms that could never compete with big agriculture. Times are changing, and the communities of Appalachian Ohio are determined to lead the way toward a more sustainable future.

The word ‘sustainability’ is often repeated yet barely understood. We are told that we should work toward sustainability without knowing what that means or how to achieve it. In essence, sustainability is the intersection of three things: environment, economy, and community. If something makes sense for the environment but is not affordable, the initiative is not sustainable. If the community makes a sound economic decision, yet the project will negatively impact the environment, it is not sustainable. Instead of setting the environment against the economy, this approach to life allows both to prosper while also benefitting the community.

In Appalachian Ohio, sustainability takes many forms, from setting forests aside for recreational use, to harvesting forests for non-timber products like ginseng; from installing solar panels on your roof, to creating the first net-zero government building in the region; from harvesting native plants like paw-paws and spicebush berries, to selling local produce at the community farmer’s market. Sustainability is more than just the latest fad. It’s a way of life that brings whole communities together to support each other while caring for the land around them. And that’s something we should all want to be part of.

'The Footprint of the Foothills' documentary, which focuses on environmental sustainability in southeast Ohio, is now available to churches and other groups. Contact for more information.