These days, the word ‘sustainable” applies to all manner of things, from sustainable energy to sustainable investing and sustainable development.
But does the term always mean the same thing? Not by a long shot. And in recent years, its very meaning has evolved.
So what does sustainability mean in 2018? I zoomed in for a closer look.
Sustaining through the ages
Sustainability isn’t a new word, of course. It isn’t even a new idea. Humans have been practicing sustainable methods of agriculture and food storage forever. But industrial advances that dramatically increased our control of the environment made sustaining it a far more urgent issue.
When humans tapped into the potential energy from fossil fuels or used coal to power engines and generate electricity, for instance, while at the same time advancing medicine and our sanitation systems, human population exploded in way that definitely is not sustainable.
Sustainability does involve the environment, but does not only involve the environment.
Sustainability also includes sectors in economic, industrial and social areas. In simple terms, all the term means is the ability to withstand. For us, sustainability is our capability to maintain wellbeing. Concepts of stewardship and resource management come into play here, too.
In order to achieve sustainability, we need to re-examine our goals on our economic practices, such as buying locally-sourced and humane products and our social responsibilities. It is critical for our continued life on Earth.
Meanwhile, on the industrial front
An example of sustainability in the industrial field is the concept of green building. Green building involves everything from choosing building materials that are either made from renewable resources or are recycled. Building materials should be non-toxic. Other practices should also be prioritized, such as using industrial filtration equipment to filter and reuse water, installing alternate energy sources like wind or solar. A lot of damage has been done. It is time to reverse that damage with sustainable practices across the way humans continue to progress.
Social sustainability is probably the least understood term in the category, but it is an important one. You are probably familiar with concepts that fall under its broad umbrella, such as social justice, civil rights and livability.
Social sustainability is essentially when all social processes support current and future generations. Did you know there is even such a thing as socially responsible investing, which has a positive economic and social impact?
The key here is understanding what a community needs to thrive in the places they live and work, so people can give back to their communities in a way that supports positive evolvement.
The need to preserve and protect our resources on all the above levels should be at the forefront of our decisions and conversations. How else can we humans ensure continued well-being for ourselves and our economy, society and environment?