Why living a sustainable life is good for you and the planet
Sustainability. It might not roll off the tongue, but we’re told time and time again how vital it is.
We’re living in an age where people are more concerned about the future of the planet than ever before. With constant talk about climate change, our carbon footprint and how the quality of life for future generations will be compromised by our damaged environment, the concept of sustainable living is becoming more and more paramount.
But what exactly is sustainability? And what makes it so necessary? We seek to answer these questions by breaking down some of the key principles of sustainability and taking a look at some examples of sustainable living.
What is sustainability?
Although most people would probably agree they know what sustainability is, it remains a tricky term to actually define. Our take is that sustainability is the reduction of damage to the environment. In turn, it’s the reversal of the damage that has already been caused. Sustainability is the concept of living within the resources the planet provides without harming the planet now or in the future.
Sustainability is about looking at the long-term. At how our actions today will affect our children’s lives, and our children’s children’s lives. It’s finding ways not to deplete the earth’s resources or causing pollution at rates much faster than the earth can renew them.
What are the 3 principles of sustainability?
When talking about sustainability, the concept is often divided into three key principles – or pillars, as they’re known. These are social (people), economic (profit) and environment (planet).
Social sustainability is the idea that everyone should have access to basic resources without having to compromise their quality of life.
Economic sustainability is all about motivating companies to abide by sustainability guidelines beyond their standard legislative requirements.
Environmental sustainability focuses on how we need to protect the air quality, ecosystems and sustainability of our natural resources.
Why should I care about sustainability?
Now you have a better understanding as to what sustainability is, there shouldn’t be any question around why it’s so important. But in case there is, here you go:
1. It affects your life on earth
Following sustainable practices – such as wearing bamboo clothing and being a more sustainable traveller – will have a direct positive impact on your experience here on earth. By taking care of the planet, you’ll benefit by inhaling less pollution, experiencing less extreme weather conditions and enjoying the natural beauties the earth provides. If you don’t, you’ll experience the exact opposite.
2. It affects future generations
Caring about sustainability is not just about us and our own experience on earth. If we don’t take the health of the planet seriously, we’ll be compromising the ability of future generations to live a happy and healthy life on this beautiful rock we call home. We must become a sustainable society for the better chance of earth maintaining its health for those yet to be born.
3. It affects the planet and its other inhabitants
Deciding to not adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle is not only detrimental to humanity, but to the earth and its other residents such as animals, insects and sea-life. It would be misguided for us to think we’re the centre of the universe and that the earth is something that belongs to us. We share it with many other species, so we need to preserve it for them, too!
What are some examples of sustainability?
So now you know what sustainability is and why it’s important, you’d probably like to see some examples of sustainability in action. Here are some examples to get you started.
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle
It’s an age-old concept, but one that has stood the test of time for good reason. Reducing your waste is perhaps the most important here, seeing as the less we use, the less we need to in turn reuse or recycle. For example, reusable coffee cups and straws make great investments to avoid nasty disposable plastic. The same can be said for cloth towels and diapers.
When reducing isn’t an option, reusing is the next best thing. For instance, glass jars, containers or cans are perfect for filling with dried pasta, nuts and seeds. Got old clothes, linen or towels that are too worn even to donate? Why not rip them up and use them as cleaning rags?
Finally, when all else fails, it’s important to recycle. Recycling is obviously better than simply sending your waste off to the landfill, but an even better scenario would be to reduce the waste to begin with. But when there's no other way, reach for the recycling bin!
2. Catch public transport
Another great example of sustainability is the decision to leave your car at home and catch public transport instead. According to this report on vehicle emissions – such as hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen – air pollutants can lead to smog and adverse health issues such as “respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer”.
Obviously, not everyone lives somewhere it’s possible to walk, run or even cycle to work, but it’s often a possibility to swap your car for public transport. By leaving your car at home and choosing to jump on the bus, train, tram or ferry, you’re not only helping reduce pollution, but you’re actively saving money, too. Win-win!
3. Grow your own food
Ok, we might not all be able to completely cut off from supermarkets and live off the land. Wouldn’t that be nice? But even small updates to our lifestyles can result in big changes to the environment. Whether it’s herbs on a city balcony, a few tomato plants in your backyard or a community garden – there are countless ways to live a more sustainable life by growing your own food.
Through growing your own herbs, fruits and veggies, you’ll find yourself becoming more in touch with nature, encouraging you to live more sustainably in other ways. For instance – if you haven’t already – you could start your own compost pile. Also, by needing to buy less fruit and veggies from the local supermarket, you could end up doing fewer trips in the car leading to less pollution.
4. Shop sustainably
By making thoughtful decisions about what we purchase in our everyday lives, we can all adopt more sustainable lifestyles. For example, it’s important to think about the chemicals you clean with at home. Eco-friendly cleaning products you pick up in a store are always good, but you could always go a step further and make your own. Think white vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda.
When shopping sustainably, it’s also important to think about the clothing we buy. This is because the practices carried out to produce the garments we end up wearing are not always as thoughtful as we would expect them to be (fast fashion, we’re looking at you!).
In our humble opinion, bamboo clothing is a more sustainable choice than other traditional and contemporary fibres, both natural and synthetic. Grown organically without pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers, the benefits of bamboo clothing go on and on.
What is sustainable development?
Once you’ve got your head around the concept of sustainability, it makes it easier to understand what sustainable development is. In its simplest terms, sustainable development is when development goals are met by sustaining our natural resources. This means the needs of our modern world are met in the present day without compromising future generations (easier said than done!)
5 examples of sustainable development
1. Solar energy
One of the best things about solar energy is that it’s free and available in limitless supply (that’s once you’ve installed solar panels and given the sun is shining!). By replacing non-renewable energy with solar energy, you’ll not only be energy efficient, but financially efficient, too.
2. Green spaces
Green spaces such as parks and botanical gardens help regulate air quality and climate, reducing energy consumption and recharging groundwater supplies. They’re also known to improve mental health – who knew how powerful a park could be?
3. Crop rotation
A vital component of organic farming, crop rotation is “a system of designing how to cycle a parcel of land through various crops”. This, in turn, reduces the reliance on nasty chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Nice!
4. Sustainable construction
Building houses, offices and other structures in a way that incorporates sustainable construction into residential and commercial development allows them to be energy efficient.
5. Efficient water fixtures
Switching to efficient shower heads, toilets and other water appliances can conserve one of the earth’s most crucial resources: water.
So, there you have it. Our comprehensive guide on what sustainability is, examples of sustainability in action and why sustainability is so important for the preservation of our planet and the wellbeing of future generations.
It’s so important to think about our everyday actions. Whether it’s through deciding to leave your car in the driveway and catch the train to work, buying clothing made in a sustainable way or considering sustainable development choices at home or at work, it’s the responsibility of each of us to leave this world in the best possible condition for our children, their children and all future generations to come.
When in doubt, think green!
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What is World Environment Day and how can you get involved?
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How to create a sustainable home one room at a time
It’s April. Which means it’s nearly Earth Day again. Except, this year we’d hardly notice because we have so much else going on. Social distancing. Self-isolating. Trying to keep our spirits high during a time filled with so much uncertainty. But there are some positives that have come from this unprecedented time. You might have seen the satellite photos displaying how the COVID-19-led lockdowns across the world have lowered global emissions and giving Mother Nature a well-earned rest. What better way to celebrate Earth Day later this month? And, while we spend more time at home than ever before, we find ourselves finding time to focus on things we rarely have time for. Our physical and mental wellbeing. Creative hobbies and outlets. Spending time with loved ones we live with, albeit at a distance. Another thing we might find we have extra time for at home is catching up with some bits around the home we’ve put off. 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There are lots of ‘basic’ changes you can make instantly, such as swapping out incandescent bulbs for LED lighting or getting a recycling bin, for example. But if you’re keen to delve into the world of eco-homes, even more, there are lots more ways that you can make a difference, making positive changes around your home, one room at a time. Here’s a bit of room-by-room inspiration to get you started: Bathroom National Geographic estimates that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. This is why to have a truly sustainable bathroom, it’s best to try and avoid products that are made of, or are packaged in, plastic. Here are some great plastic-free bathroom alternatives to get you started. With bathrooms often being warm and steamy from a hot bath or shower, they’re the perfect environment for germs to thrive. Cleaning a bathroom is never a pleasant job, and many of us automatically choose the strongest cleaning solutions to make sure we kill any nasties lying around. Unfortunately, these chemical-filled cleaners get flushed away, filtered, and are back in the water supply… even if some chemicals still remain. Instead, try to use natural cleaning products. You can even make some yourself using white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Kitchen One of the best ways to get the ball rolling on an eco kitchen is to invest. Invest in high-quality cookware and durable plates and bowls, rather than always selecting the cheapest options. Why? Because investing in quality means investing in sustainability. High-quality cookware and dishes are more likely to withstand frequent use and washing, and less likely to deteriorate or break from everyday use. Cookware that lasts for years can significantly reduce demand for manufacturing, and all the byproducts of manufacturing such as energy, water, and fuel. If you’re not quite a dab hand in the kitchen, you may want to look away now. Believe it or not, cooking at home is actually one of the best ways to create a sustainable kitchen! Pre-packaged ready meals have probably done more travelling than you and me combined. Each step of the process will usually be handled at a different facility, really clocking up those food miles. Cooking from scratch not only means you can reduce your carbon footprint, but you can also be sure that the ingredients have been sourced sustainably. Don’t forget to use green kitchen appliances, too. Bedroom Could your bedroom do with a lick of paint? If you’re redecorating, try to use eco-friendly paint that’s much better for the environment (and for your own health, too!). Look for ‘low VOC’ or ‘zero VOC’ paints, which have fewer volatile organic compounds that can be released into the air. Low VOC paints typically have less than 50g per litre, while zero VOC paints have less than 5g per litre. It’s always best to check the labels to know for sure, but as a general rule of thumb, flat latex paints that are light in colour usually have lower VOCs than glossy, oil-based paints. If you’ve chosen cotton sheets for your bedroom, good for you. You probably know that cotton is a pretty good choice for a sustainable bedroom. But it’s not the best choice. The problem with cotton is that fertilisers and pesticides are often used in the farming processes, which aren’t great for the planet. If you’re looking to make a quick and simple swap, switch to organic bamboo sheets, which look and feel really similar. Bamboo holds the world record for the fastest-growing plant at a rate of 91cm per day, so there’s always a constant, renewable source. Here’s some more benefits of bamboo. Living Room Think the perfect couch doesn’t exist? Think again. Steve Jobs’ wife Laurene Powell once said that it took the Apple Co-Founder eight years to decide on a couch, but we think it’s much easier to find the right one… especially if you look at sustainable options. A sustainable couch really can be whatever you make it. You could choose second-hand furniture, with absolutely no new resources used, or you could buy new. When buying new, look for couches made using sustainable wood (with FSC or AFS certification), or try to buy from a local manufacturer. Need new furniture for your living room? Here’s a bit of a crazy idea, but it’s one that could help you create a unique space and the sustainable living room of your dreams. Instead of buying new, how about trying to build new furniture from items already in your home? This is also ideal now it’s hard to get out much! For example, you could create a side table by stacking books, or a box shelf from an old desk drawer. Upcycling is a fantastic way to minimise the amount we send to landfill and create one-of-a-kind spaces. And best of all, you’ll be reducing the piles of clutter that you just don’t know what to do with! There’s no rush The thought of what could happen if we all carry on as we are is terrifying, but the truth is that the world isn’t going to implode tomorrow. Don’t try and implement all these changes at once, or you may end up feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up. And that’s not doing the planet any good! Instead, approach sustainable living from a ‘one room at a time’ perspective. By working in bite-sized, manageable chunks, you’ll soon find that you’ve created an eco-home that really makes a difference. And right now, this could be time well-spent indeed. Sarah Pelham is the Beauty & Wellness Expert for Bookwell.com.au, an online platform for instant bookings for hair, nails, beauty & massage appointments. For nearly four years Sarah has worked closely with hundreds of salon owners within the beauty and wellness industries. She has her finger on the pulse of new trends in this growing market.