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/