What Is Sustainable Development?

Inspire Clean Energy

16 min read

category: Clean Energy 101

Until recently, economic development was the number one priority for almost everyone on the planet. Companies, governments, and communities favored financial growth. And this made sense – the more money in a country or area, the better the standards of living for the community. The only problem is that this development came largely at the cost of the environment.

Thankfully, we’ve all started to wake up and smell the coffee. We’ve realized that we must act in order to change our habit of relying on the cheapest and fastest options over what is sustainable. Today, more people opt for cleaner, more responsible ways of living.

On a large scale, this choice is called sustainable development. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and what its goals are.

With more and more people worldwide becoming aware of the negative environmental impacts caused by issues such as climate change, habitat destruction, and poverty, there is increasing interest in renewable energy solutions. Sustainable development is the only way to ensure the protection of the planet for future generations, wildlife, and ecosystems.

What is sustainable development, in simple terms?

Sustainable development is the act of meeting the present’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs. It’s about ensuring we don’t make decisions that will compromise our children or grandchildren’s ability to live well.

Sustainable development is a relatively new concept that first appeared in 1987. The emergence of the idea came with the publication of the Brundtland Report, an environmental publication warning of the consequences unsustainable growth and globalization could have for the planet.

What is sustainable development and why is it important?

You can find a simple definition of sustainable development above, but if you still don’t understand, it’s best explained through an example:

Imagine a community that lives on an island. They have acres of fields where they grow their food. For the sake of the example, imagine they don’t have any close neighbors they can trade with. They discover that they have an abundance of fish right off their island's shore, so they start eating almost nothing but fish. As their population grows, they decide to develop the land where they used to grow the majority of their food into new housing.

They do this without worrying about whether they may need it again in the future. And after a generation of living this way, their fish supply starts to dwindle and there’s not enough food to feed everyone. They want to go back to farming, but they no longer have the room. Now, the current generation will suffer because the past generation did not think about what the future generations would need. They simply chose to live in a way that allowed them to eat and make money the easiest at the time.

That’s the basic idea of sustainable development. It’s about foreseeing future problems and developing the world in a way that will not make them a reality. If we do not develop the world in a sustainable way, we will create future problems that may be impossible to solve (such as global warming), or at the very least, will make the lives of future generations more difficult (such as health problems due to smog in inner cities).

What is sustainable and renewable energy?

Sustainable and renewable energy is generated using clean, infinite methods. Unlike fossil fuels — i.e., coal, oil, and natural gas — renewable energies will never run out and can be generated locally, without scarring the earth.

Types of sustainable and renewable energy include:

Sustainable energy sources don’t generally produce greenhouse gases or any other pollutants responsible for global warming and ill health effects. With the costs of renewable energy sources falling at a constant rate, clean energy generation is becoming increasingly popular, bringing the world another step closer to a primarily green energy market.

What is the role of renewable energy in sustainable development?

The development of renewable energy is crucial for battling climate change and, at the very least, slowing down its harmful effects on the planet. It will also make it possible for more communities worldwide to have access to electricity and generally safer energy sources.

What is an example of sustainable development?

Let’s take a look at a couple examples of sustainable development.

Solar energy Solar energy is increasing in popularity in many areas due to its versatility. Photovoltaic (PV) systems, or solar panels, can be used on a large scale and small scale to provide businesses, homes, and communities with electricity harnessed from sunlight.

Manufacturing of solar panels is now cheaper than ever, making solar energy one of the most affordable, and therefore accessible, renewable energy sources available.

One solar farm can reduce emissions by 94%, compared to a typical coal power plant. Solar power is not responsible for the release of noxious pollutants that can contribute to millions of premature deaths annually. The price of solar technology is going down to the point where it’s cheaper than fossil fuels in some parts of the world. While not everyone has the financial means to install solar panels on their roofs, they are an excellent resource for public buildings and businesses.

Wind energy Wind power is another affordable renewable energy source, in some cases being cheaper than electricity produced by coal. Although the initial costs to install a wind turbine can be a little expensive, the electricity they generate is clean and affordable, and the wind turbine industry is providing new jobs at a consistent rate. They also earn back their installation cost quickly, typically in just 3-6 months!

Wind turbines also allow for surrounding lands to be used for other purposes, including farming and nature, as their physical footprint is relatively small. In turn, this can help to add to the local economy as farmers and other landowners are typically paid rent for allowing turbines to be installed on their property.

This is a great power generation solution due to the low cost and small land footprint of wind turbines. Wind farms take up so little space that other farming and conservation activities can take place on the same land. The cost of wind power technology has also gone down in recent years, making it a competitive resource as energy storage and transmission infrastructure improves. Wind energy is especially promising when it comes to the economic pillar of sustainability. Wind projects pay more than $1.6 billion toward state and local taxes every year and power an astonishing amount of job growth. In fact, over 120,000 workers have wind-powered careers today, across all 50 states – even those without a wind farm!

With the price of this technology continuing to decrease and energy storage solutions improving, wind energy has the potential to become one of the leading renewable energy solutions, possibly even replacing conventional generation methods for electricity grids.

Resource conservation This involves using as few nonrenewable resources as possible and is far better for the environment than fossil fuels. It means that the resources on which sustainability depends are conserved and, in some cases, enhanced. For example, soil organic is a valuable ecosystem resource that can decline rapidly in nearly all cropping systems after initial cultivation. Cropping practices that conserve or improve the buildup of soil organic matter will undoubtedly enhance our cropping sustainability.

We can also conserve resources through water-efficient fixtures, reducing our water waste by over 50%. Water-efficient fixtures may come in the form of dual flush toilets, toilet stops, low-flow taps, and showerheads. It’s easy and inexpensive to retrofit these fixtures into existing buildings or install them for new building projects.

What is the main focus of sustainable development?

According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the definition of sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Therefore, sustainable development focuses on three main things:

  • environmental stewardship
  • economic growth
  • social inclusion

Transitioning to renewable energies will positively impact these aspects of sustainable development, contributing to the economy and causing little-to-no impact on the environment.

What are examples of sustainable development?

Taking solar energy, wind power, and resource conservation as the most effective forms of sustainable development, there are plenty of examples of ways we can use them in our daily lives.

Examples of using sustainable development in our daily lives are:

  • Using wind power to provide energy for homes, community buildings, and businesses.
  • Using solar power to do the same or to heat water for homes and businesses.
  • Creating, using, and caring for green spaces, particularly those in suburban and urban areas where the air quality is notably worse, and people are less likely to get out in nature for exercise.
  • Utilizing “forest farming”: forest farming is a particularly promising notion; it involves the cultivation of low-maintenance plant foods like herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, nut trees, and berries. Many environmentalists believe that food forests could offer a sustainable and long-lasting solution to world hunger.

What are the benefits of sustainable development?

There are a huge number of benefits of sustainable development. Some of the benefits are:

  • It actively combats climate change.
  • It protects oceans and complex ecosystems.
  • It improves air quality in areas of low-income areas.
  • It encourages everyone to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle.
  • It allows countries and communities to rely on their own local natural resources rather than importing them or going without.
  • It creates more jobs in small communities and rural areas.

What is the goal of sustainable development for the future?

There are many goals associated with sustainable development, and many of these goals are dependent on each other. Some of the objectives of sustainable development include:

  • Combating climate change,
  • Eradicating famine and poverty,
  • Creating universal access to basic amenities like sanitation, food, water, and sustainable energy,
  • Promoting inclusive education and fairly paid work to support more diverse development opportunities,
  • Establishing and maintaining resilient infrastructure, creating self-reliant communities,
  • Reducing inequality globally,
  • And fostering collaboration between social agents, creating a peaceful environment of sustainable development.

What is the most sustainable source of energy for development?

It is difficult to pinpoint the single most sustainable energy source for development, but there are 4 forms of renewable energy seen to be particularly sustainable.

Solar energy Solar energy generates electricity from the light of the sun or heats water with the sun's heat.

Photovoltaic systems, which we mentioned above, are the most common way solar energy is captured, converting sunlight into electricity for commercial and residential use.

Electricity can also be created through concentrated solar power (CSP) systems, where heat energy from the sun is used to boil water to create steam that will generate electricity or heat water for a home or business.

Since the sun is an infinite source of energy (at least in terms of our lifetime), solar power is a very sustainable energy source for development, although commercial-scale solar farms take up a lot of land that cannot be used for anything else.

Wind energy Wind energy is harnessed using wind turbines, typically around 280 feet tall, although they are available in much smaller sizes for residential use. As wind causes these turbines to spin, the attached generator then rotates, producing electricity.

The advantage of wind energy is that the turbines can be installed offshore to reduce the amount of land space taken up by large scale wind farms. Although wind is intermittent, any excess electricity that has been generated can be stored for later use when wind speeds might be too low to generate the expected amount of electricity.

Geothermal energy Geothermal energy is produced from heat found deep within the Earth itself. Hot water, miles below the Earth’s crust, is drawn up into a Geothermal Power Plant where the steam spins a turbine connected to a generator, which creates electricity for the grid. This steam is then cooled down, and the water is fed back into the Earth to ensure that the water is recycled and can be used over and over.

This sustainable energy source is most commonly used on this large scale, but it can also be used on a smaller scale to heat homes through a Geothermal Heat Pump.

Hydroelectric power Hydroelectric power is one of the more popular renewable energy methods used on a commercial scale. This harnesses kinetic energy from flowing water passing through turbines. Typically, water will be captured in a reservoir and channeled at high speeds through the turbines whenever electricity is needed.

What is sustainable energy management?

Sustainable energy management is the practice involved in controlling the amount of energy needed to provide a service while trying to use as little energy as possible to create it in the first place.

It is becoming more important for businesses and organizations to consider their energy usage more carefully and find the most sustainable way to conduct their operations. Through sustainable energy management, companies can reach their business goals without harming the planet.

What is the importance of sustainable energy for development?

Sustainable energy is important for development in innumerable ways, but here are some of the most vital:

  • Most renewable energies do not contribute to climate change during energy generation. They are the cleanest solution to provide people with the energy they need without harming the environment and public health. Even those that produce some waste gases (like biomass energy) are much less harmful than fossil fuels and will not need to be relied on as heavily.

  • One of the major issues with fossil fuels is that they are quickly being depleted and won’t replenish for thousands or even millions of years. Sustainable energy sources, on the other hand, are infinite. As long as humans exist and the sun shines, these sources will be available for us to use.

  • Renewable energies are available to every community in the world. With fossil fuels only available in some areas of the world, many countries feel like they have to keep the country supplying the resource happy. Sustainable energy provides countries with energy independence and allows them to contribute to their local economies, and the world, more positively.

  • Renewable energy technologies are also becoming much cheaper than fossil fuels, particularly wind and solar energy. With costs continuing to fall, sustainable energy sources will soon become the most environmentally and economically friendly energy sources.

  • Renewable energy creates local jobs. Because the best renewable energy source for a community is what is available locally, more local jobs can be created. If a town is near a strong river, hydropower will likely be the best form of renewable energy. If a town sees 300+ sunny days a year, then solar power will probably be a no-brainer.

  • The global population is increasing, and so is the need for quality infrastructure. There are more people on the planet each day, so the demand for energy and quality infrastructure is increasing all the time. For everyone on Earth to have access to all the benefits electricity provides, we need to ensure that it’s easy to create and costs little in both financial and environmental terms.

Sustainable development, and renewable energy, is an increasingly important issue across many parts of the world. It will help slow the effects of global warming, but it will also help develop energy sources that are much kinder to the environment and those that can be accessed by all, even in poorer parts of the world.

How can we shape the future with sustainable development?

Sustainable development will allow us to shape a future where there is far less global inequality. While sustainable development is largely a term that concerns governing bodies and corporations, it’s something we all need to be aware of and involved in.

Governments must promote sustainable development and commit to social progress, equity, environmental protection, and economic growth. Schools, universities, prisons, and all other public buildings and institutions should strive to promote sustainable development. Once these bigger groups have paved the way, it will likely be easier for individuals to follow suit within their communities.

The concept of sustainable development may seem like something only big corporations and governments can initiate. But we can exact positive change as individuals, too. In fact, the more of us who make small changes, the easier it will be to become carbon neutral in our communities and nations. At Inspire, we know that protecting the environment is important to our customers, and we are proud to support clean, renewable energy. We know you want to make a change today, moving toward a world where our energy usage doesn’t harm our planet or threaten future generations.

How can I support sustainable development?

We can all do our part to support sustainable development. You too have the power to make real change in the world. You can start by supporting sustainable initiatives in your community, state, and country, as well as in any organizations you work for or are part of.

The best way you can support sustainable development in your life is to make the switch to renewable energy. When you choose to buy your energy from sustainable sources, you increase the demand for those sources and ensure more sustainable energy sources are developed in your area and country in the future.

To do this, it couldn’t be simpler. There are plenty of green energy initiatives, and if you can switch energy suppliers in your state, we’re here to give you access to energy exclusively from sustainable development sources such as wind and solar farms.

If you are looking to make a change and switch to a more environmentally friendly source of energy, you can do so with Inspire. At Inspire, we can provide you with 100% clean energy at a flat monthly price with no surprises. With your help, we can work toward a greener energy grid and a happier, healthier planet. Click here to find out how you can create change in just 5 minutes.

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