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What is Sustainability?

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

When we think of what sustainability means, many people think it's recycling and being mindful of the environment. While that's definitely a part of it, there's a much deeper meaning behind sustainability. The oxford dictionary defines sustainability as the "avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance." Another site defines it as "fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations, while ensuring a balance between economic growth, environmental care and social well-being." According to, sustainable living is "a lifestyle that aims to reduce one's environmental impact, in ways that are sustainable for both the Earth and for the person.” It's a lifestyle that works to reduce the use of Earth’s natural resources in order to preserve the planet. This can look like choosing a product that is made eco-friendly to reduce the use of toxic products, choosing not to buy certain items because of the way they are made, packaged, or produced, or making changes to how you live and do things in your daily life.

Pete Seeger, who was a singer and a social activist, once said “if it can not be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production.”

Examples of sustainability include:

  • Reducing your use of resources such as fossil fuels which will reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere that ultimately causes the earth's temperature to rise (climate change).

  • At-home composting either outdoors or in your home.

  • Reducing consumption of single-use plastic.

  • Eating less animal products to reduce the demand on grain and water needed for animal feed, the land needed to farm and raise them, and the unfair environments these animals often live in.

  • Purchasing non-toxic and naturally made cleaning products.

  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

  • Conserve water: Help prevent drought conditions by turning off the faucet when you are not directly using it and save unused water for watering plants.

  • Keep the temperature low in your home and save energy by keeping your shades drawn during the day to avoid absorbing heat from the sun. Your A/C unit will thank you!

  • Instead of running the dryer and wasting energy, take advantage of sunny skies and summer breeze by air drying your clothes outside on a line or in your home which can add moisture to the air in the winter time!

  • Find time to detach from all of your electronic devices. Make sure to unplug your power cords when you’re not using them to conserve energy.

  • Eat Seasonally & Locally: Treat yourself to nutritious vegetables and fruits that benefit your health, while also supporting local farmers.

Why is living sustainably important?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American produces 4.4 lbs. of trash per day which comes out to more than 1,600 lbs. per year. This trash is either going into landfills where it emits methane gas and can seep into our land or it's being shipped to other parts of the world to be dumped. Yet, sometimes the trash never makes it to land again and is dumped into the oceans instead where it kills wildlife, ruins oceanic agriculture, and disrupts ecosystems.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one such example of ocean pollution at its worst. Its a patch of garbage the size of Texas caught in a vortex of ocean currents that spans from the west coast of North America to Japan. "these patches are almost entirely made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics can’t always be seen by the naked eye" (source). "80 percent of plastic in the ocean is estimated to come from land-based sources, with the remaining 20 percent coming from boats and other marine sources. Most of this debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups."

Many animals mistake plastic pieces for food, mother will feed garbage to their young, get caught in plastic netting and die, and the ocean animals we eat bring microplastics into our food supply and inherently into us. "As plastics break down through photodegradation, they leach out colorants and chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), that have been linked to environmental and health problems. Conversely, plastics can also absorbpollutants, such as PCBs, from the seawater. These chemicals can then enter the food chain when consumed by marine life."

Emissions and air quality are important to consider as well.

The diagram below showcases the components contributing to air pollution.

Damaged marine life and air pollutants are just two of the many factors contributing to the degradation of the planet.

How you can help:

  • Consider donating to organizations that are working to save the oceans and the air.

    • 4ocean is an organization that helps clean the ocean and every time someone purchases a bracelet, shirt or any item, one pound of trash is removed oceans, rivers and coastlines. If you don't need any swag, you can also donate and help remove pounds of trash from our waters. Follow their account on Instagram!

    • Sea Shepherd is another organization that works to save all marine life. "Through the sale of our sustainable products, we raise funds for our marine conservation campaigns to defend, conserve, and protect marine wildlife worldwide." You can also donate to their cause directly. Follow their account on Instagram!

    • Look into the Top 50 Non-Profits Working to Stop Climate Change and consider donating, volunteering or supporting these companies through any means you can! Whether that's following them on social media, signing up for their newsletter or talking more about the work they do and get others on board with sustainability initiatives, anything can help but people need to know about it!

  • The easiest things we can do (aside from donating) is to buy less plastic! And reuse plastic if we can. Recycling isn't the most trusted way to dispose of plastic so by being smarter consumers, we can start to use less plastic in our daily lives.

  • Purchase eco-friendly made products and products that are local to your community.

  • One of my favorite companies is called For Days, and their mission is to reduce fast fashion waste by providing YOU with an easy way to dispose of unwanted, used clothing and fabric materials. Purchase a Take Back Bag for $20 and send in your used clothes and/or fabric materials and you'll get a shopping credit to your account! Learn more about them here!

  • Try gardening! Check out this website for a great start to gardening for beginners. It is an incredible experience to grow your own meals!

  • Volunteer to Clean Up Rivers! You can follow this link to see if there is a event nearby.

  • Try Upcycling! You can turn old knickknacks into use items around your house without a lot of extra work. You can visit this website for some ideas to get you started!

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