Environmental Sustainability: A Beginners Guide.
The Need for Environmental Sustainability: Why live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle?
“Sustainable” means the ability of an object to exist over a period of time. Environmental sustainability is the ability to sustain the Earth through moderated consumption of natural resources and nurturing the environment to maintain ecological balance.
Earth’s natural resources are being extracted faster than the Earth can regenerate. This leaves our future generation to inherit sinking cities, polluted air and oceans of rubbish.
How unsustainable are we?
From the 1970s to 2021, humanity has quadrupled its consumption of natural resources and doubled its population. Increases in Earth’s population size causes increased extraction of natural resources, which causes increased consumption levels.
Humanity’s lifestyle is not sustainable for the environment because of overconsumption. For example, the reason why plastic is ubiquitous in our society, from being part of technology to clothes and used to package most goods bought.
It is because plastic is cheap to produce, so it was mass-produced and consumed. And currently, there is a floating landmass made of plastic that is three times the size of France. And plastic is a major cause of Earth’s pollution crisis.
Last year, this study revealed that human-made objects outweigh all living life on Earth. Human-made objects are called anthropogenic masses. Anthropogenic mass includes the weight of roads, houses, stadiums, all forms of transportation, paper, cups, phones, and all other forms of our daily infrastructure.
The world’s plastics weigh twice as much as marine and terrestrial animals. Buildings and infrastructures outweigh trees and plants.Image Credits: https://bit.ly/36HJCgB
What is the way forward?
Humanity has looked towards technology as the solution to every crisis. And technological advancement may lead to environmental sustainability.
Because when the plastic pollution crisis started, humankind invented biodegradable cups, shopping bags, reusable straws, clothes made from recycled plastic and even plastic roads.
But alternatives are not the answer to being environmentally sustainable. Technology cannot address the problem, which is high-level consumption.
The solution is a lifestyle devoid of rapid consumerism, where we consume better and make better decisions because we are more educated on environmental sustainability—a lifestyle of positive consumption.
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Environmental sustainability begins with a change of mindset. And while widespread environmental change by individual action is difficult. We should …
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.“Mahatma Gandhi
Any decision we make, no matter how minuscule, affects the environment. So, to be environmentally sustainable, everyone has a role to play in reducing environmental damage.
This article aims to provide the initiative in how we, as individuals, can achieve environmental sustainability.
Environmental Sustainability: Beginners guide for sustainable living
Step 1 – Ensure to reduce and reuse before recycling.
Follow these three “R’s” – reduce > reuse > recycle.
Recycling is not an ideal solution to the pollution crisis caused by overconsumption. Using plastics as an example, it is not possible to recycle 96% of plastic. The 4% that gets recycled can only be recycled a few times before it becomes useless to recycle.
For sustainable practices, water bottles and paper bags can be reused. Cardboard containers can be used instead of plastic bags. Glass containers can be reused to store kitchen spices.
A lot of things have double purposes, environmentally sustainable means, recognizing objects to be reused before recycling.
Step 2 – Travel smarter
Transportation is a heavy emitter of carbon emissions, harming the ozone layer. While transportation is impossible to eliminate, it is possible to travel smarter for environmental sustainability.
When travelling by air, we should avoid flights with connecting flights; the bulk of airline emissions happen during takeoff and landing.
Air travel should not be encouraged because of the existence of public transportation.
And because of the pandemic, work, education and events can be successfully attended virtually.
And in cases where a vehicle would have sufficed. We should replicate a lifestyle of walking and go for short journeys, riding a bicycle is also an alternative. In the age of e-bikes and e-vehicles, travelling smarter ensures environmental sustainability.
Step 3 – Add some green and revamp your diet.
Consider having plant-based meals a few times a week and eating less meat, as it accounts for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions; this does not pressure to go full vegetarian, but incorporating a diet with vegetables and meat is better for the environment and health.
Please support your local farmers’ market, it is better than buying shipped packaged goods from supermarkets, and you are giving back to your community financially and being sustainable.
Consider food packaging. Please stay away from nylon or plastic-wrapped products as they are hard to decompose and recycled. But if they are unavoidable, then ensure they can be reused. Also, it is better to opt for cardboard and cans as they are widely recycled, unlike plastic.
Step 4 – Lead by example.
The final and most important step is to be a change agent, providing a change from within a community to worldwide.
Once you calculate your sustainability, active efforts need to be made to improve your environmental sustainability. Active efforts for you to be a change agent are:
- Advocate your local government on environmental sustainability practices, such as education on recycling and pollution
- Support clothing brands that use cotton fabric over polyester, support groups in your community that advocate for environmental sustainability, e.g. organizations that support the cause of decluttering local ponds and lakes.
- Buy less. Before any purchase, differentiate between your needs and wants. Buying less empowers us to break out of the excess consumerism, manage our financial resources better while being environmentally sustainable to the Earth.
- We should all embrace environmental sustainability because the Earth’s resources are finite, and it is our only home until we colonize and terraform Mars.
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