What is Environmental Sustainability?


When we’re feeling stressed or out of touch, many of us instinctively go for walks. We search for forests, parks, beaches, and country roads to feel more at peace connected to nature. Given that fact, it’s no surprise that human well-being is intrinsically linked to the environment’s health. About 24% of global human deaths are caused, directly or indirectly, by avoidable environmental factors1. To live long and healthy lives, we need and deserve unpolluted air to breathe, clean water to drink, and live in places free of toxic substances.

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.

What is environmental sustainability?

According to the U.N Environment Programme2, environmental sustainability involves making life choices that ensure an equal, if not better, way of life for future generations.

Environmental sustainability aims to improve the quality of human life without putting unnecessary strain on the earth's supporting ecosystems. It’s about creating an equilibrium between consumerist human culture and the living world. We can do this by living in a way that doesn’t waste or unnecessarily deplete natural resources.

Why is sustainability 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 livable future by investing in sustainable and responsible practices like reducing waste, using clean energy, and paying fair wages.

What is a simple definition of environmental sustainability?

In simple terms, environmental sustainability is the practice of interacting with the planet responsibly. We do it to avoid depleting natural resources and compromising the future generation’s ability to meet their daily needs.

What are some examples of environmental sustainability?

There are two primary ways in which environmental sustainability can be achieved: by individuals and by corporations and government bodies.

As individuals, we can take small but effective steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle, like using less water, reducing our meat consumption and switching to reusable products to reduce our dependence on single-use plastics.

From a corporation’s perspective, environmental sustainability may involve switching to renewable energy in warehouses, factories and offices or cutting down on single-use plastics in manufacturing.

What are the 3 pillars 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 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 do we need sustainability?

The general goal of environmental sustainability is to evens things out. As we’ve seen, environmental sustainability provides huge benefits for human health and that of all other species. It reduces our global carbon footprint and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and other harmful energy practices. But does it benefit us in other ways?

Sustainability can increase life expectancy by providing healthier living conditions and better healthcare, which could also lessen the divide between the rich and poor. Sustainable development encourages more responsible manufacturing and production, covering the industrial side of waste and pollution. It also encourages companies, industries, and governments to make decisions based on long-term consequences, rather than taking the easiest, cheapest option.

What are the issues of environmental sustainability?

While environmental sustainability offers clear benefits in terms of global human and animal health, there are some barriers we may face when working to achieve it.

  • Exponential population growth, unsustainable consumption and production patterns among the rich are the primary social challenges to achieving global sustainable development. Unless we see a significant change in global human behavior, sustainability will not be possible. Other social hurdles include limited awareness and education about sustainability, insufficient interaction between civil society and the government and inadequate incentives for the private sector to encourage sustainable development.

  • Economists have observed that sustainable development focuses on economic growth rather than people's health or rights. For environmental sustainability to work globally, our worldview must shift as we currently treat the environment as part of the economy rather than the other way around. This change means the economy must be adapted so that environmental services are maintained. This process is easier said than done and will likely take decades for a shift to begin taking place.

We may face some obstacles in our efforts to achieve environmental sustainability, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do our best. The idea of living sustainably can feel daunting, but there are plenty of small changes we can make without much inconvenience.

What are the 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

For businesses, the benefits are:

  • You reduce your energy usage and thus save money
  • You produce less waste, which can help you save money, costs and will make you a better choice for eco-conscious customers
  • You can produce less pollution, which in some areas can offer you incentives or cut costs while also making you a better choice for eco-conscious customers
  • Improve your brand image
  • Attract and keep better quality investors, employees, and shareholders
  • You can rest easy at night knowing you’re not damaging the planet for future generations

How do you achieve environmental sustainability?

Here are some easy ways you can live more sustainably in your daily life:

  • Cut down on red meat; it’s a huge driver of food air miles and methane emissions.
  • Switch to a green energy utility company - resources like wind, solar power, and geothermal energy are all infinite sources and will not deplete. Switching to a green energy company is one of the simplest and most effective ways to make a difference.
  • 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 traveled 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.
  • Replace saran wrap with reusable beeswax eco-wraps.
  • Say no to the plastic straw with your iced coffee- bring your own instead!
  • If you wear make-up, switch to washable, reusable make-up wipes, and plastic-free cosmetics.
  • Reduce your consumption of single-use plastic materials like water bottles, grocery bags, coffee cups, and produce wrapping. You can replace these single-use items with tote bags, water flasks, reusable coffee cups, and plastic-free fruit and vegetables.
  • Switch out paper towels for reusable dishcloths.
  • Instead of buying expensive, heavily-packaged body scrubs, make one using coffee grounds, sugar, and a little coconut oil.
  • Buy a bamboo toothbrush or an electric toothbrush instead of using plastic ones.

Achieve environmental sustainability by switching to renewable energy

Fossil fuels are one of the most harmful elements of our energy use today, but you can choose a safer, more sustainable option.

With Inspire, we believe in a world where clean energy is available to everyone, and we want to help make that future a reality today. By switching to Inspire, you’ll help to put more clean, sustainable energy on the grid and drive down the demand for fossil fuels.

Whether you’re an individual or a business, we’re here to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Click here to make the switch today.

Sources:


  1. who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventing-disease/en/ 

  2. unep.org/about-un-environment/sustainability