When you practise sustainability, you adopt a lifestyle that is termed sustainable living. This means that you incorporate strategies into your lifestyle that support the ideals of sustainability. There are many ways of describing this process and the terminology can be confusing, so let’s begin with a few definitions.
According to Wikipedia, “sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the earth’s natural resources”.
Lester R. Brown is an environmentalist who founded the Worldwatch and Earth Policy Institutes. He describes sustainability as “shifting to a renewable energy-based, reuse/recycle economy with a diversified transport system”.
People often refer to their attempts at sustainability as “going green”, being eco-friendly or adopting an eco-living lifestyle.
In its purest form, sustainability means that a particular process or condition can be maintained indefinitely. In the 21st century, this means that, as we meet our current needs, we must ensure that the future inhabitants of earth are also able to meet their needs.
The three acknowledged pillars of sustainability are Social, Environment and Economic. Sustainability is often defined as a strategy of meeting current societal, environmental and economic needs in such a way that the same needs of the future generations are not adversely affected.
Why is sustainable living necessary?
The issues surrounding sustainable living have been spoken and written about since the 1800s but gathered strength during the 1970s. Prominent scientists have written about the dangers of continuing the rate of development and growth of consumerism-driven societies, but their warnings have largely fallen on deaf ears. Gradually, though, we are becoming aware that there are limits to which humans can use the natural resources of our planet. Many believe that we are fast reaching some of those limits.
Just like we need to live within our means financially, not spending more than we can earn, humans also need to use the natural resources of the earth responsibly. The natural world is the basis of human existence; it cannot be squandered. Natural resources like water, habitats, wild fish, oil, gas and coal should only be used at the same rate that they are naturally replenished. Science has given us plenty of evidence that humans are living in a most unsustainable way by consuming these resources at a much faster rate than they can possibly be replenished naturally.
The need for worldwide changes to incorporate a more sustainable way of life has become obvious, but making the necessary changes is proving difficult. The good of the environment is frequently sacrificed for monetary profits, survival or political gain. What people need to understand is that without sustainability, these factors may well collapse.
Humans simply cannot continue to take from the planet, destroying natural environments in the name of progress, and expect life as we know it, to continue indefinitely.
What can I do on my own?
Many people have decided that they are not prepared to wait for governments and decision-makers to take action towards sustainability. While there has been some progression towards sustainability in many countries in recent years, most are still lagging behind. Governments seem reticent to take any action that might anger the big corporations or certain segments of their constituents.
Luckily, there are several strategies that you can employ in your own life, which will help you develop a more sustainable lifestyle. Can you make a difference on your own? Maybe not very much, but the sooner people take hold of the sustainability ball and run with it, the sooner we will be making progress.
Never underestimate the contribution one person can have; you make some small changes to your lifestyle and share the benefits with those you know. Some of these people will copy your initiatives, while some will disagree with the need for such changes. Even if you influence just one more person to make sustainable living choices, you have had an impact. If you can do this at home, in your neighborhood, at the local schools and at work, think how great your contribution will be to the planet.
So, are you going to make a green contribution? What kinds of things do you do to live sustainable?