“Consume less, share better!”
It’s that simple, just like you’re taught in kindergarten. According to the most recent figures, Americans consume more resources than any other country. There is only 1 Earth, and Americans consume enough resources and produce enough waste for 4.4 Earths. This is rather astonishing. But don’t worry, the British aren’t far behind, estimated at consuming 3 Earths, and ranked 18th in the world for alcohol consumption. That’s a lot of booze!
So it turns out, if we take the average of our 7.2 billion population, it takes 1.5 Earths to provide our resources and absorb our waste. Do you see the problem? It gets worse, unfortunately this isn’t a recent development, academics and scholars estimate we started overshooting in 1970.
What exactly is Sustainability?
Sustainability is the field devoted to fixing this ‘overuse of the planet’ problem. It focuses on businesses, but can really fit into anything; government, consumers, and especially non-profit organisations or Non Governmental Organisations (NGO).
There is not a single accepted definition for sustainability, as the field can be broad and varied depending on the industry or problem it addresses. Sustainability simply focuses on not destroying our future in order to to have too comfortable of a present. It tries to focus on issues within its 3 Pillars; Economic, Social, and Environmental concerns.
What being sustainable can fix:
Human Trafficking – do you own a smart phone, perhaps the new iPhone 5? The workers that extracted the resources, made the parts, and put it together may have been exploited in order to keep costs down.
Melting Ice Caps – This is a major problem as sea levels will rise and affect large cities on coastal areas. The IPCC recently reported they were 95% certain humans were responsible for climate change over the past 50 years.
Garbage Island – a theoretical mass of plastics floating just below the surface water in the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans
Don’t Freak Out… There is HOPE!
- Businesses are beginning to get into sustainability. Know doubt you’ve heard of the term Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR) being thrown around? These are programs where corporations try to offset their negatives, or more ideally, use less resources and produce goods or services more sustainably.
- Consumers are starting to buy more responsibly. We see brands like Fair Trade, or consumer goods that are made of recyclable and even bio-degradable products, becoming increasingly popular.
- Sustainability has almost become its own industry. In fact, I’m doing a postgrad course currently, called Sustainability & Management at Royal Holloway, University of London which places sustainability at the heart of future life. Whenever someone asks what I do, I always respond, “I help businesses stay profitable without destroying the environment or society.”
What can I do?
This is a loaded question, and unfortunately, there is no easy answer. There will most likely be a major shift in the way we live our lives! This will be tough, for example, we’ll have to ask Americans to stop consuming so much, which means consuming only 25% of what they do now. The same will have to happen with the British. As much as I hate to bring it up, as not to start mass panic, we might be running out of alcohol. 21 year old Scotch was made 21 years ago obviously, but what we don’t think about is in 1990 there were only 5.2 billion people. The amount of Scotch produced then won’t feed the 7.2 billion of today!
We have the same problem with our plant and its resources. There is limited amount. At the end of the day, once we’ve sold the last iPhone for top dollar, there’s no amount of money in the wold that can make more oil, gold, water or air. You might be rich, but if you cannot breath, then what’s the point!