Sustainability Explained

What is Sustainability and Why is it Important

Sustainability practices in basic terms include renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable. The United Nations has expressed the following:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Without any focus on sustainability, resources are depleted unchecked, pollution increased without pause, and social inequities are abused in the name of lower cost.

How is Sustainability Defined

People typically limit their thinking of sustainability as the protection of the environment. While very important, this is only part of the larger concept.  The idea of sustainability is built upon three fundamental concepts:

  1. Environment: The environment is the Earth and all the interrelated process, habitats / ecosystems, and the atmosphere. To make sustainable decisions, it is necessary to understand relationships between these pieces.
  2. Social Equity: The comfort, health, and security of those people producing products. This also includes fundamental liberties such as access to education systems, healthcare, real employment, social justice, and a fair government. The Fair Trade movement was established to facilitate awareness and improves social responsibility for products or services purchased.
  3. Economics: Is the supply, demand, and exchange of goods or services. Sustainable applications to economics require longer-term views than has traditionally taken place.

It is through these three fundamental concepts that a structure is established for individuals, businesses, and nations to make sustainable decisions.

Ongoing sustainability must be a way of life to succeed. It’s changes will have a cumulative action in business, government, and daily activities.

Why Care About Sustainability

Sustainability is critical to ensure quality of life long-term on Earth. Depletion of non-renewable resources has grown faster than the planet is able to sustain. Global population has skyrocketed which means an ever increasing demand for those natural resources. As traditionally third world nations have developed such as India and China, that demand has gone unchecked.

Habitat destruction to support livestock farming through forest “reclamation” efforts in South America and part of Asia has reaped irreparable havoc on those ecosystems and biodiversity. Further, the devastation to global water supplies through toxic chemical dumping or damaging plastics has contaminated the most critical resource required for life.

Global citizens around the planet are realizing that the current path is no longer viable. Sustainability is the key to this understanding and the source of answers to our planet’s issues. Corporations have adopted sustainability programs, many of which are labeled under their “going green” initiatives to adapt and improve how decisions regarding environment, social equity, and economics are made. While some level of greenwashing has taken place in an effort to capitalize on the movement, legitimate work is also being done.

An increasing number of consumers are learning to understand and see how their decisions make a difference and are seeking out sustainable products, and services.

Finally, it’s important to note that the movement to a sustainable lifestyle does not happen immediately. It’s a journey that is achieved through each incremental action. Don’t be afraid to start your journey!

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