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Sustainability 101

Whenever we hear the word sustainability, we’re bombarded by humungous data and even larger words like circular economy, biodegradable, carbon offsets, microplastic, eco-friendly, organic, etc. But sustainability as a concept is quite unique and different. Simply put, sustainability is defined as

“Use what you need without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainability is a concept that motivates us to look beyond our needs toward the needs of our children and grandchildren. But why this sudden rave over sustainability? Well, firstly it’s not sudden. It seems incredible but sustainability dates back 30 years, with its novel appearance in 1987 in the famous Brundtland Report (also known as 'Our Common Future) produced by several countries for the UN.

Brundtland Report; produced by a commission led by Doctor Gro Harlem Brundtland uses the term ‘’Sustainable Development for the first time. In reality, the concept grew due to the overriding need to study and identify the impact of human activities on the environment.

Humans have started to understand that the world and its precious resources are not as limitless as we thought. Natural resources are running out, pollution is rising and there is a palpable and irreversible loss of flora and fauna as well as proven effects of climate change. Therefore it is imperative to undertake a rapid change towards more sustainable development, for the world at large, as there could be catastrophic consequences in the near future.

For us, Sustainability should be equal to Mindful Living. Real-life sustainability proves that “going green” can be as simple as making a few practical, inexpensive changes to our everyday routine. Simple examples of mindful living which we are probably doing already (but need to practice consciously) like bringing reusable grocery bags to the store rather than taking plastic bags home. Refilling a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing single-use bottled water. So let’s breathe in mindful living and start living sustainably on your own terms.

Mindful living is driven by 3 R’s - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Reduce wastage.

Re-use things wherever you can.

Recycle old into new and reuse!

Sustainability as a concept encompasses distinct areas of our lives and it is crucial to get a wholesome view of sustainability. For the same purpose, we’ve divided sustainability into four pillars:

Human sustainability

Human sustainability refers to the sustainment and improvement of human resources, assets, & cultures within the society.

Typically, this could be achieved through enablers such as investment in services or capacities covering areas like Health, Education, Welfare, etc.

The Human sustainability pillar targets investment in skills that function to sustain or improve the well-being of the society.

Social sustainability

Social sustainability has a broader scope with a far-reaching view of the world we live in, accommodating communities, cultures, and concepts such as globalization. Social sustainability also introduces the principle of co-dependence between society and the environment.

The goal of social sustainability is two-fold:

  • Recognize that our actions have an impact on others and on the world.

  • To protect future generations.

Economic sustainability

Where social and human sustainability focuses on human issues, economic sustainability focuses on monetary capital. Economic sustainability aims to maintain the capital intact. Economic sustainability essentially aims to improve the standard of living.

Environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability aims to enhance the welfare of the population through the strength and stability of our natural capital. Environmental sustainability encompasses of conservation of resources like land, air, water, minerals, and solar energy. These environmental initiatives are commonplace and are usually one of the key terms that people think of when thinking about sustainability.

Putting it in a nutshell, sustainable practice comes into play as whole supporting ecological, human, and economic health, and vitality.

Sustainability presumes that resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences. In simplest terms, sustainability is about our children and our grandchildren, and the world we will leave them.

As a country and culture, Indians are by far the least wasteful. Sustainability is at the heart of our way of living.

Thriftiness (re-use and hand-me-downs) is a way of life for us and it is not an uncommon sight in an Indian household to witness an old cloth being used as a duster or rag cloth. Things that have absolutely no value, such as old newspapers and books, or utensils, can be easily sold off to scrap dealers to be re-used or re-cycled. Bucket baths, sun-drying clothes, and hand-washing dishes are other widespread sustainable practices commonly found in an Indian household. Culturally, there is also an aversion to wasting food. This is nothing but sustainability!

Greendex; an international report on sustainable living compiled a study by National Geographic and Globes that measures the way consumers are responding to environmental concerns. The scores measure housing, transport, food, and goods. India occupies a top spot on this index among 18 contenders, which also includes China and the US. In particular, India received high scores in housing, transportation, and food choices.

The real question lies here: Is going sustainable expensive? How do we know which organizations/ brands are truly sustainable? What can I do/change to be sustainable; will sustainability benefit me at work? Where can I study sustainability, how do I identify sustainable products? Will climate change impact me? What is my carbon footprint? Will someone de-mystify these sustainability jargons?

On green Loop, we will discuss all these and also how through a mindful lifestyle and by tweaking (if not completely changing) our food, fashion, travel choices, economic activities, and social habits, we can create a community keen on ushering in a sustainable and happy world. Let’s re-use and re-cycle!

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