Sustainability. It might not roll off the tongue, but we’re told time and time again how vital it is.
We're living in an age where people are more concerned about the future of the planet than ever before. With constant talk about climate change, our carbon emissions footprint and how the quality of life for future generations will be compromised by our damaged environment, the concept of sustainable living is becoming more and more paramount.
But what exactly is sustainable living? And what makes it so necessary? We seek to answer these questions by breaking down some of the key principles of sustainability and taking a look at some examples of sustainable living.
What is sustainability?
Although most people would probably agree they know what sustainability is, it remains a tricky term to actually define. Our take is that sustainability is the reduction of damage to the environment. In turn, it’s the reversal of the damage that has already been caused. Sustainability is the concept of living within the resources the planet provides without harming the planet now or in the future.
Sustainability is about looking at the long-term. At how our actions today will affect our children’s lives, and our children’s children’s lives. It’s finding ways not to deplete the earth’s resources or causing pollution at rates much faster than the earth can renew them.
What are the 3 principles of sustainability?
When talking about sustainability, the concept is often divided into three key principles – or pillars, as they’re known. These are social (people), economic (profit) and environment (planet).
Social sustainability is the idea that everyone should have access to basic resources without having to compromise their quality of life.
Economic sustainability is all about motivating companies to abide by sustainability guidelines beyond their standard legislative requirements.
Environmental sustainability focuses on how we need to protect the air quality, ecosystems and sustainability of our natural resources.
Why should I care about sustainability?
Now you have a better understanding as to what sustainability is, there shouldn't be any question around why sustainable habits are so important. But in case there is, here you go:
1. It affects your life on earth
Following sustainable practices – such as wearing bamboo clothing and being a more sustainable traveler – will have a direct positive impact on your experience here on earth. By taking care of the planet with even one sustainable practice, you'll benefit by inhaling less pollution, experiencing less extreme weather conditions and enjoying the natural beauties the earth provides. If you don't, you'll experience the exact opposite.
2. It affects future generations
Caring about sustainability is not just about us and our own experience on earth. If we don’t take the health of the planet seriously, we’ll be compromising the ability of future generations to live a happy and healthy life on this beautiful rock we call home. We must become a sustainable society for the better chance of earth maintaining its health for those yet to be born.
3. It affects the planet and its other inhabitants
Deciding to not adopt an eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle is not only detrimental to humanity, but to the earth and its other residents such as animals, insects, and sea-life. It would be misguided for us to think we're the center of the universe and that the earth is something that belongs to us. We share it with many other species, so we need to preserve it for them, too!
What are some examples of sustainability?
So now you know what sustainability is and why it’s important, you’d probably like to see some examples of sustainability in action. Here are some examples to get you started.
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle
It's an age-old concept, but one that has stood the test of time for good reason. Reducing your waste is perhaps the most important here, seeing as the less we use, the less we need to in turn reuse or recycle. For example, reusable coffee cups and straws make great investments to avoid nasty disposable plastic waste. The same can be said for cloth towels and diapers.
When reducing isn’t an option, reusing is the next best thing. For instance, glass jars, containers or cans are perfect for filling with dried pasta, nuts, and seeds. Got old clothes, linen or towels that are too worn even to donate? Why not rip them up and use them as cleaning rags?
Finally, when all else fails, it’s important to recycle. Recycling is obviously better than simply sending your waste off to the landfill, but an even better scenario would be to reduce the waste, to begin with. But when there's no other way, reach for the recycling bin!
2. Catch public transport
Another great sustainable living tip is the decision to leave your car at home and catch public transport instead. According to this report on vehicle emissions – such as hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen – air pollutants can lead to smog and adverse health issues such as “respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer”.
Obviously, not everyone lives somewhere where it's possible to walk, run or even cycle to work, but it's often a possibility to swap your car for public transport. By leaving your car at home and choosing to jump on the bus, train, tram or ferry, you're not only helping reduce pollution, but you're actively saving money, too. Win-win!
3. Grow your own food
Ok, we might not all be able to completely cut off from supermarkets and live off the land. Wouldn’t that be nice? But even small updates to our lifestyles can result in big changes to the environment. Whether it’s herbs on a city balcony, a few tomato plants in your backyard or a community garden – there are countless ways to live a more sustainable life by growing your own food.
Through growing your own herbs, fruits, and veggies, you'll find yourself becoming more in touch with nature, encouraging you to live more sustainably in other ways. For instance - if you haven't already - you could start your own compost pile. Also, by needing to buy less fruit and veggies from the local supermarket, you could end up doing fewer trips in the car leading to less pollution, environmental impact, as well as less food waste.
4. Shop sustainably
By making thoughtful decisions about what we purchase in our everyday lives, we can all adopt more sustainable lifestyles. For example, it’s important to think about the chemicals you clean with at home. Eco-friendly cleaning products you pick up in a store are always good, but you could always go a step further and make your own. Think white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.
When shopping sustainably, it’s also important to think about the clothing we buy. This is because the practices carried out to produce the garments we end up wearing are not always as thoughtful as we would expect them to be (fast fashion, we’re looking at you!).
In our humble opinion, bamboo clothing is a more sustainable choice than other traditional and contemporary fibers, both natural and synthetic. Grown organically without pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers, the benefits of bamboo clothing go on and on.
What is sustainable development?
Once you've got your head around the concept of sustainability, it makes it easier to understand what sustainable development is. In its simplest terms, sustainable development is when development goals are met by sustaining our earth’s natural resources. This means the needs of our modern world are met in the present day without compromising future generations (easier said than done!)
5 examples of sustainable development
1. Solar energy
One of the best things about solar energy is that it's free and available in limitless supply (that's once you've installed solar panels and given the sun is shining!). By replacing non-renewable energy with solar energy, you'll not have energy efficiency, but you'll be financially efficient, too.
2. Green spaces
Green spaces such as parks and botanical gardens help regulate air quality and climate, reducing energy consumption and recharging groundwater supplies. Sustainable living practices like these are also known to improve mental health - who knew how powerful a park could be?
3. Crop rotation
A vital component of organic farming, crop rotation is “a system of designing how to cycle a parcel of land through various crops”. This, in turn, reduces the reliance on nasty chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Nice!
4. Sustainable construction
Building houses, offices, and other structures in a way that incorporates sustainable construction into residential and commercial development allows them to be energy efficient.
5. Efficient water fixtures
Switching to efficient showerheads, toilets and other water appliances can conserve one of the earth’s most crucial resources: water.
So, there you have it. Our comprehensive guide on what sustainability is, examples of sustainable living ideas in action and why sustainability is so important for the preservation of our planet and the wellbeing of future generations.
It's so important to think about our everyday actions. Whether it's through deciding to leave your car in the driveway and catch the train to work, buying clothing made in a sustainable way or considering sustainable development choices at home or at work, it's the responsibility of each of us to leave this world in the best possible condition for our children, their children and all future generations to come.
When in doubt, think green for a better world!