George Floyd, a black man, was killed in the streets of Minneapolis Minnesota on May 25th, 2020, by the Minneapolis police department. Officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, spent 8 minutes, 46 seconds with his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd, cutting of circulation to Floyd’s brain, and therefore causing his death. Soon after this unjust killing, the world erupted. Protests and riots erupted from Los Angeles to London, all standing against racial injustice and the pitfalls of law enforcement. Chaos has erupted not only in Minneapolis, but all around the world. The chaos seemed especially apparent to me, as the killing happened only a couple of miles from my home. Some of the most successful protests and some of the most destructive riots happened in what felt like my own back yard. What was most apparent to me at the time was the instability that the riots brought due to the injustice from the killing of George Floyd. People were afraid to leave their homes past 5pm. People were afraid their homes could be burned down. Business owners were afraid their businesses would be looted, burned, or both. The store I personally work at was severely looted, and now it will likely go out of business. The chaos that the world saw in the week after George Floyd’s death was unstable and therefore not sustainable. But what is even less stable and less sustainable is the system that led to the killing of George Floyd in the first place. A system that allows for the kinds of injustice that happened to Mr. Floyd is a system that cannot sustain itself over time. Change is often externally forced if it is not internally and voluntarily embraced.
It’s important to address this issue on this blog because all too often people associate sustainability only with environmental concerns. When many people think about sustainability, they think about what they can do to better the environment, whether it’s changing their lifestyle or donating to organizations that fight environmental degeneration. It is easy to forget about the importance of social sustainability. If we want to reap the benefits and luxuries of living in this country, we must care about the factors that systems that keep this country afloat. If there are injustices that put the public in danger within a system this country relies on to keep its citizens safe, that system will not last in its current form, and the luxuries we experience in this country are at risk. If you stand for sustainability, you stand against the injustices we have experienced from law enforcement here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you stand for sustainability, you stand for systems that promote the well-being of the masses and impose justice fairly. If you stand for sustainability, you stand for George Floyd.
In the pursuit of living a more eco-friendly, sustainable, and healthy life, it is easy to find yourself wondering, “Why am I doing this? Why does this matter?”
Sustainability is not just recycling, biking to work, or turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth; it's a concept that stretches through environmental protection, economic growth, and social stability. The Brundtland Report defined sustainable development as it is known today, stating “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (1)" This is precisely the reason we should be mindful of the implications of our lifestyles. We must all ask ourselves, “Is any part of my lifestyle compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs?”
If we care about the world in which our grandchildren will find themselves in, we must care about sustainability. Just as bringing new life into this world is an immense responsibility, so is ensuring that the world we inhabit is fit for those brought into it.
We should look at sustainability through the lens of John Elkington’s concept of the “Triple Bottom Line. (2)” The concept assesses one’s social, economic, and environmental impact. Many times, people think of sustainability simply as our impact on the environment, whether it be through climate change, water pollution, or deforestation. It is important to look at all three of these aspects of sustainability in order to see a more complete picture.
If you care about clean are to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean energy to use, then you care about environmental sustainability. We all hear about the threat of climate change due to pollution, but there are plenty of other issues present within environmental sustainability. Deforestation, water pollution, the burning of fossil fuels, ocean acidification, and air pollution are just some of the issues that fall under environmental sustainability.
According to One World Education, in the next 25 years, if deforestation continues at its current rate, nearly half the world's species of plants and animals will be destroyed or severely threatened. According to ecotricity, our planet’s supply of oil will run out by 2052, our natural gas by 2060, and our coal by 2090. The NDRC has stated that unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined.
These facts show the blatant lack of environmental sustainability present in our world today. If we don’t start caring about these issues today, the energy sources we most commonly rely on will no longer exist in 50 years, animal and plant populations will be at risk, and the health of our species will be as well.
According to a UN report and a study conducted by Trucost, the world’s 3,000 largest companies cause $2.2 trillion in environmental damages every year. Because corporations generally impact the environment more than individuals, it’s important to ensure their modes of production are ethical and sustainable. If one cares about environmental sustainability, they must care about economic sustainability as well, since economic production has inherent environmental impacts.
The previous two aspects of sustainability tie into this last one: social sustainability. Social sustainability aims to produce social well-being over the long-term. Our well-being as individuals and as a society is inextricably linked to the quality of our environment and economy, but there are other aspects of social sustainability that is important to mention as well. Ideals such as justice and equality both promote well-being and social longevity, so these ideals should be protected if we wish for our children to live in a socially sustainable society. If one cares about individual and collective well-being, then it is important to care about sustainability.
It is a balance and management of each of these aspects of sustainability that leads to a truly sustainable future. Going GREEN is about exactly that, designing our lives today to lead to a truly sustainable future. We can ask ourselves once more, “Why does being GREEN matter?” Being GREEN matters because if we aren't, everything that we value is at risk. If we care about living in an environment with clean air, water, and energy, then it is important to be GREEN. If we care about the impact corporations have on the environment around us, then it is important to be GREEN. If we care about living in a society that promotes personal and collective well-being, then it is important to be GREEN.
(1) Visser, W., & Brundtland, G. H. (n.d.). Our Common Future (‘The Brundtland Report’): World Commission on Environment and Development. The Top 50 Sustainability Books, 52-55. doi:10.9774/gleaf.978-1-907643-44-6_12
(2) 25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase “Triple Bottom Line ... (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/06/25-years-ago-i-coined-the-phrase-triple-bottom-line-heres-why-im-giving-up-on-it
(3) One World Education, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from http://www.oneworldeducation.org/
(4) Green Energy for Your Home or Business - Ecotricity. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/
(5) NRDC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from https://www.nrdc.org/
(6) Putting a price on global environmental damage. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from https://www.trucost.com/trucost-news/putting-price-global-environmental-damage/
Sustainability often seems like an issue so big that no one individual can tackle it. The truth is that every individual can make an impact by taking small and easy steps towards changing their lifestyle. Taking these small steps can lead to a significant impact over time.
One way to take these steps is to be mindful of the products we are using. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American throws out 4.4 pounds of waste every day. This equates to 1,361 pounds of waste every year.
It is important to ask yourself, what products of mine are contributing to this waste, and what products could I have to help minimize the damage? There are probably many products in your home that you could substitute for a more sustainable option. To help minimize this damage, here are 6 substitute products that will help you live a more sustainable life.
Ziploc baggies are a necessity in many households, especially for families with children. Whether it’s for a sporting event, school lunch, or an at-work snack, people use plastic baggies to transport their food constantly.
Stasher bags are endlessly reusable, dish washer safe silicone bags that can be used for food storage and transportation of all kinds. Not only will they help you use and consume less plastic, but a percentage of every Stasher bag purchase goes to environmentally focused, high-impact nonprofits.
More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day. By using a high quality, reusable water bottle, you can keep hundreds, if not thousands, of plastic water bottles outside of these landfills every year.
The higher the quality, the longer your reusable water bottle will last you and the more sustainable this practice will be. I prefer a steel, insulated water bottle that can take a bit of a beating (I have an issue with dropping water bottles..). Because of this, I have been really enjoying the selection Klean Kanteen offers. They have plenty of durable, high quality options that will get the job done right.
Get yours at https://www.kleankanteen.com
I’ve come to understand that many people strongly prefer to drink liquids from a straw. If you are one of these people, like me, reusable silicon or steel straws are a must. According to Eco-Cycle, Americans use nearly 500 million plastic straws every day. Apart from this, the issue with plastic straws is that many aren't recyclable due to the chemicals they are made from.
Fortunately, many organizations have committed to not using plastic straws, instead, they either offer a paper straw or don’t offer an alternative at all. To avoid buying plastic straws or asking for one when you go out to your favorite restaurant, get yourself some steel straws from Kleen Kanteen or some silicon straws from GoSili.
The average shower wastes nearly 18 gallons of water, which means every person wastes over 6,500 gallons of water every year while showering. Purchasing an eco-friendly shower head can cut water usage nearly in half.
A couple of shower head attachments that are affordable and easy to install are the High Efficiency Low-Flow Shower Head by High Sierra ($39.95), and an even more affordable option is the Economy Super Spray Clean Amazing Shower Head ($10.42) available on Amazon.
Paper towels are another household staple that creates TONS of waste every year. It’s hard to think of an alternative to this good, but Marley’s Monsters is a company that solved this issue, creating a reusable, organic cotton version of the classic paper towel.
At only $16, a 6 pack of Unpaper towels will both save you money and reduce waste throughout the year.
These products, as shown, are often not much more expensive than the current, more wasteful alternatives you may be using. Do your part and make an impact. By incorporating even a couple of these substitute products into your home, you are taking steps towards living a more sustainable life.
United States Environmental Protection Agency | US EPA. www.epa.gov/.
Klean Kanteen | Bottles, Cups, Mugs, Tumblers, Canisters ... www.kleankanteen.com/.
Marleys Monsters – Marley's Monsters. www.marleysmonsters.com/.
High Sierra Showerheads - Low-Flow 1.5 Gpm Shower Heads ... www.highsierrashowerheads.com/.
Stasher - Reusable Snack, Sandwich & Storage Bags. www.stasherbag.com/.
Silicone Straws, Cups, Food Storage and Tableware | GoSili. www.gosili.com/.