Our Relationship with Sustainability
Updated: Apr 26
What is Living Sustainably?
A personal philosophy that greatly benefits the larger public. We prioritize the use of natural and renewable resources instead of creating excess waste and depleting environmental resources for future generations.
The term first came from the Brundtland Report of 1987, published by the United Nations through Oxford University Press, with the aim to present environment-related concerns in the context of political development. In this document, sustainable development is described as; “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In our day to day, living sustainably invites us to be conscious of how we consume and utilize resources according to their availability and finite nature.
What is Our Current Model of Living?
Our total, collective population of 7 billion uses the natural resources to sustain current lifestyles. As of 2020, 1.3 billion tons UN Environment Program on Food Consumption/Production of food produced is wasted every year and the planet’s natural resources that supply our food is being threatened by overfishing and land degradation.
Our freshwater supplies are polluted by human activity at a faster rate than nature can purify them, excessive use of water causes global water stress. Household energy usage is responsible for over 20% of CO2 emissions. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs came up with 17 Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Some of the topics addressed are hunger, education, water, energy, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption and production and sustainable communities.
By understanding our current model of living and the associated behaviors that contribute to maintaining our current lifestyle we have an opportunity to explore new ways to live more sustainably.
First Steps to Living More Sustainably
We have heard the various calls to action to live more sustainably; like reducing plastic bags at grocery stores or choosing locally grown food to invest in our farm communities.
Here are some steps you can incrementally add to your lifestyle and influence your everyday actions:
1. Use Less Energy- reducing your electric consumption and moderating your thermostat setting. Try hanging clothes (outside using the solar dryer and inside in the winter to add moisture to the dry winter air). Consume less energy by using stove top or smaller toaster oven style appliances where possible. Consider moderating the amount of water consumption and temperature. Understand more about your household carbon footprint with this tool Carbon Footprint Calculator
2. Create Less Waste- meal planning or eating in season are helpful ways to reduce food waste. Wherever possible look at using alternatives to paper goods or recycled paper products. Places like TreeHugger Sustainability for All is a good place to start sourcing alternatives.
3. Travel Light- when you are local and urban, consider walking, biking or public transportation. When possible, take the train over the airplane. When air travel is your option, here is what to know; short flights consume the most fuel, then ocean crossing, finally the least impactful is mid-domestic. Look for airlines that are implementing carbon offsetting and investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) . Here are some resources for travel Sustainable Travel and for Eco Friendly Lodging.
4. Shop Wisely- plan out your shopping lists in advance so that you are more intentional versus impulsive. When it comes to shopping for clothing consider a few new trendy ways to change up your wardrobe; arrange a clothing swap with friends or go to thrift stores. Recycle clothing to known sources that serve local communities. There are many community re-stores popping up in communities. When shopping for new clothing items, look for biodegradable fabrics like linen and wool and fair-trade certifications that promote safe working conditions, empowering business models and high standards protecting the environment.
Whatever inspires you the most from this article is the best place for you to start living sustainably. Each new step you take towards sustainability is a win. Celebrate each win and you will feel a new sense of empowerment and awareness in support of our planet.