Human wellbeing is closely linked to the health of the environment and environmental sustainability. Around the world, 24% of deaths can be traced back to avoidable environmental factors, according to the World Health Organization. People need clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, and places to live that are free of toxic substances and hazards.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmentalism. Embedded in most definitions of sustainability we also find concerns for social equity and economic development.
What are the different components of sustainability?
Aside from benefiting the planet and its inhabitants, environmental sustainability can offer plenty of benefits. The three pillars of sustainability involve economic, social, and environmental development.
Economic sustainability is the responsibility of businesses and communities. Here, they are encouraged to use their resources responsibly and efficiently. Economic sustainability is designed to support long-term economic growth without harming the environmental, social, and cultural aspects of our global community.
Social sustainability benefits people. Living sustainably as individuals, families, communities, and countries means healthier air and less money needlessly spent on healthcare. Using renewable energy sources can reduce droughts as they require less water and energy to maintain. The eventual goal is that sustainable development will also reduce hunger, poverty and generally provide a better global quality of life, promoting fairly distributed education and healthcare.
Environmental sustainability focuses on the state of the planet we leave it in. It encourages individuals to live in a way that creates minimal waste and even regenerates some of the resources we use every day.
Why sustainability is important?
Environmental sustainability is important because of how much energy, food, and human-made resources we use every day. Rapid population growth has resulted in increased farming and manufacturing, leading to more greenhouse gas emissions, unsustainable energy use, and deforestation.
In other words, we need more energy and materials than ever before. Despite this, our planet can only provide so many resources before they begin to deplete. For this reason, businesses must step in and do their part. They have more power than any group of individuals, and they can help secure a liveable future by investing in sustainable and responsible practices like reducing waste, using commercial clean energy, and paying fair wages.
Even if you are committed to the fight against climate change, you may be unsure of the answer to “what is environmental sustainability?” The standard definition of environmental sustainability equates to environmentally sustainable development, but what does that mean on a practical level? It means there must be a balanced relationship between the natural resources available to us and the human consumption of those resources:
Relationship between Natural Resources and Human Consumption
For renewable resources like crops or timber, the rate of harvest shouldn’t exceed the rate of regeneration. This is known as “sustainable yield.”
For non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, the rate of depletion shouldn’t exceed the rate of development of renewable alternatives like solar or wind power.
For pollution, the rates of waste generation shouldn’t exceed the capacity of the environment to assimilate that waste. This is known as “sustainable waste disposal.”
In short, environmental sustainability states that the rates of renewable resource harvest, non-renewable resource depletion, and pollution assimilation can be naturally maintained indefinitely.
The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development goes further, defining environmental sustainability as behaving today in a way that ensures that future generations will have enough natural resources to maintain a quality of life equal to if not better than that of current generations.
Achieving a balance between natural resources and human consumption that is both respectful of the natural world yet fuels our modern way of life, is one of the most important pieces in the climate-change puzzle.
With unchecked resource depletion, we risk a global food crisis, energy crisis, and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that will lead to a global warming crisis.
On the other hand, with too many restrictions on the use of natural resources, we risk slowing technological and economic advancement.
For the future of our planet and the humans who populate it, it’s vital to weigh the competing needs of environmental protection and human development so both the natural world and society are able to flourish.
Striking this delicate balance is challenging—though not impossible—and issues surrounding sustainability, the environment, and society have been the focus of scientists, philosophers, politicians, and policy experts for decades.
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What is Environmental Sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is the responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect global ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future. Since so many decisions that impact the environment are not felt immediately, a key element of environmental sustainability is its forward-looking nature.
As the global population grows and we begin to see the long-term consequences of excessive energy use and industrial growth, we must prevent further damage.
It is our job to ensure our future generations have healthy places to live and minimize our damage to the earth’s biodiverse ecosystems.
For businesses, sustainability means running a business through sustainable practices and securing future growth potential without causing too much damage to the environment.
Benefits of environmental sustainability:
The benefits of environmental sustainability are:
- We can protect ecosystems
- We can continue to enjoy nature as it is
- We can protect endangered species
- Less pollution in the cities will result in better respiratory health for all
- It could halt or reverse the effects of global warming
- We won’t be creating huge landfills all over the world that will take hundreds of years to break down
How can we achieve environmental sustainability?
- Cook and bake your own meals and snacks, rather than relying on food in plastic and non-recyclable packaging. Cooking in batches is another great way to use less energy and reduce waste.
- Ditch the bottled water and drink from the tap. Plastic bottles take about 450 years to decompose, so consider if it’s worth it for the sake of one drink. Instead, opt for a reusable water bottle or a water filter jug for your refrigerator.
- Rely less on your car and walk or cycle where possible.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Eat locally- this supports food products with low air miles. In other words, try to eat foods that haven’t travelled far to make it onto your plate.
- Resell, repurpose, or donate unwanted items. Repurposing may mean using old clothes or bed sheets for cleaning rags or reusing glass jars to store dry foods.