15 of the best quotes to inspire a sustainability movement

As a writer, there are three specific books sitting on my desk within easy reach for good reason.

One is a dictionary (yes, the internet has not diminished my love of reference books). One is a thesaurus (why use ‘flexible’ when ‘pliable’ will do?).

The third is my absolute favourite. The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations is a book I return to most often in support of my work. If I’m struggling to find the right words, I seek out those of others. The pointed, pertinent, pithy and, sometimes, poisonous quotes of scholars, academics, celebrities, authors and educators can, more often than not, get a content creator like myself out of the tightest of editorial corners.

My new pop-up ethical t-shirt business – launched this week at betterbusinessshow.teemill.co.uk – had me reaching for this invaluable tome once more in search of inspirational citations from the great and good of the sustainability world.

And there have been some dynamite proclamations over the years. Here’s my 10 favourites.

And if you’d like one of these quotations emblazoned across your chest, head over to the store now.


‘Comply’ is not a vision
— Ray Anderson, founder of Interface
I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.
— Paul Newman, actor
Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life.
— George Monbiot, writer and activist
The best way to predict the future is to create it.
— Peter Drucker, management consultant
The future will be green, or not at all.
— Jonathan Porritt, environmentalist and author
Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn’t filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.
— Naomi Klein, author
Science always uses metaphor.
— James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory
If you ask the wrong question, of course, you get the wrong answer. We find in design it’s much more important and difficult to ask the right question. Once you do that, the right answer becomes obvious.
— Amory Lovins, physicist, environmental scientist and writer
Being a good human being is good business.
— Paul Hawken, environmentalist, entrepreneur and writer
I’m not a pessimist, even though I do think awful things are going to happen.
— James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory
The earth is a museum of divine intent.
— Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist and co-founder of 350.org
When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist.
— George Monbiot, writer and activist
Give up meat to save the planet.
— Nick Stern, economist
There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.
— Marshall McLuhan, philosopher
[On climate change:] What if it’s all a hoax and we’ve created a better world for nothing?
— Naomi Klein, author

The Better Business Show Pop-up T-Shirt Store is inspired (and, quite frankly, enabled) by the amazing team at Rapanui, creators of Teemill. Co-founder Rob Drake-Knight appeared on episode 30 of the podcast. His story can be heard here.