What does sustainability mean to you?

It's purely about the environment, or so many people think.

The definition of Sustainability on Dictionary.com is this: The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.


The modern definition of Sustainability, though, is two-fold. Today's definition of Sustainability understands that the survival of the human race cannot be separated from the survival of the planet. And it strives to address both. These include factors such as poverty, health, peace, societal inequalities, along with more traditional ideas of climate action, responsible consumption of natural resources, and so on. It's all about creating a balance between needs of all people and the absolute need to protect the environment, by questioning the long term effects of our actions on future generations. The Earth Charter, defines it thus: "…sustainable global society is founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace."


According to Environmental Sciences.org, it is estimated that we use about 40% more resources every year than we can put back and that needs to change. Earth Overshoot day (If you haven't heard of it, find out more here.) comes early year after year. In 2017, it fell on August 2. That means that from August 2 2017 to December 31 2017, we were borrowing resources from 2018. We have to understand and accept that sustainability is a Universal responsibility. We need to figure out how to help ourselves, our families, the local communities, and other communities in need.


Here are some very simple things to start with:

At a personal level:

  • Don't use single-use plastics (straws, ziplock bags, grocery bags, disposable razors, disposable utensils, plastic water bottles, and so many more!)

  • Practice the four Rs

  • Use recycled paper or cloth to wrap presents

  • Walk, bike or carpool when you can

  • Avoid products that have unnecessary packaging

  • Eat more vegetarian and locally sourced food

  • Shop from sustainable companies and be mindful of what you buy

  • Find something that you are passionate about, then find a local non-profit that can benefit from your knowledge and passion

  • Try not to waste food

  • Plant more vegetables and fruit in your garden- lawns drink up a lot of water

At a community level:

  • Talk about sustainability with your friends

  • Reach out to the local government and take a stand on sustainable issues- banning plastic grocery bags, e.g.

  • Volunteer with your friends and family at local causes

  • Support a local business

  • Start a giving campaign in your workplace

  • Ask local restaurants and bars to change some of their practices- unnecessary amount paper napkins and condiment packets, give out straws and water only when asked, make the change to eco-friendly take out containers, etc.

At a global level:

  • Boycott companies that have unethical practices, that don't care about their workers or the sustainability of their products

  • Understand the predicaments of other communities and figure out how you can make an impact

  • Donate money and time

  • Keep yourself informed about companies, countries and organizations that are doing great work

I would love to add on to this list, so please send me your ideas.


Maybe you are already on your way towards making sustainable decisions. Maybe you need some encouragement. Sometimes it requires strong will to make changes in your lifestyle. We are all in this together. We all need to do our bit.

The UN has come up with 17 Sustainability goals which was adopted by world leaders in September 2015. Countries have pledged to mobilize efforts to achieve these goals. Which ones will you start with?

References and more reading:

http://earthcharter.org/about/

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/

https://www.overshootday.org/

http://www.corporateknights.com/

https://www.epa.gov/sustainability

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