With every day that passes, the choices we make on how to live our lives affect the planet and the people in it, but there are opportunities for us everywhere to make better choices.
This post isn’t just about sharing those all too common sustainable living tips, so if you’re looking for a beautifully photographed water bottle, bamboo toothbrush flat-lay, or slender-looking model posing with a vegan buddha bowl, you’ve come to the wrong place.
By now, most of us are aware that a reusable coffee cup is the way forward, we need to avoid single-use plastic, buy from sustainable clothing brands, and that eating less meat is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, with that in mind we’ve gone beyond ‘what products can I buy’ to be more sustainable, to ‘what actions can I take.’
Firstly, because whilst these sustainable products are solving part of the problem, they are still encouraging an element of consumerism we ought to be trying to avoid (see list item 8!).
Secondly, because your ability to purchase these products comes to you from a position of privilege, you need a decent disposable income to be able to buy some of these high-end sustainable products, thus, it is simply not an option for everyone, and that’s why we’re focusing on concrete actions that more people can be involved in.
And clearly there is still a need for these sorts of lists, as we are all still searching for ways that we can make a difference. Did you know that 77% of people want to learn how to live more sustainably?
So we know that the intention to live a more sustainable lifestyle is there, but the how is the challenging part and change is not something that is happily embraced in human nature, we are creatures of habit.
For most, change is the barrier to entry into the sustainable way of living, but could that be because you aren’t really sure if what you do makes a difference?
It might feel like we, as individuals, will never do enough to have an impact, but that simply isn’t true, and now is as good a time as ever to start thinking about how we can all take part in the sustainability movement.
Clearly, systemic change is a fundamental part of delivering changes at scale, but sometimes we overlook the fact that our own personal actions are often the drivers behind that movement.
So, cheesy line coming up…We can make a difference, there is no better truth than the actions of many adding up to something great.
So when it comes to making these changes, what ACTUALLY works? Well, we’re getting REALISTIC about what changes you can make to make a real difference.
Whether it’s a full overhaul of your shopping habits, changing the way you travel and bank or working with your local community, our list is not only going to help you live a more socially and environmentally friendly existence, it ought to have fringe benefits like saving you money or offering some form of well-being or reward - because doing good feels good.
So, grab a cup of responsibly sourced tea or coffee, and let’s begin.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty, it’s important to really address what the term sustainability means and how its principles are now part of our understanding and application of the word in various contexts. Here’s the top-line, wonderfully put by the trusty Oxford English Dictionary:
“The use of natural products and energy in a way that does not harm the environment.”
And “The ability to continue or be continued for a long time.”
We are also a fan of the definition that came from the famous “Brutland Report" that defined sustainable development, the pivotal concept in sustainability, as:
“(…) development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
So now we start to see the common themes, longevity, the continuation of resources, and balance for the future. And the word sustainability is frequently bandied around when it comes to advertising, food choices, clothing, travel, you name it.
There is a swash of 'sustainable' products popping up all over the place, there are press releases from businesses, new company policies, and it is in the news every day as the world deals with the issues of environmental destruction, scarcity of resources, climate change, global warming and more.
And whilst it is often the environmental news that makes the headlines, sustainability is about more than just environmental topics, it is intrinsically linked to social and economic factors.
In fact, sustainability in the academic world is often split into 3 pillars – economy, society and environment, and the newly evolved, 4 pillars of sustainability or sustainable development: Cultural Vitality, Social Equity, Environmental Responsibility, and Economic Health.
Cultural Vitality refers to human well-being, creativity, identity, and diversity. Environmental Responsibility refers to the idea of ecological balance, efficient use of resources and renewable energy. Economic Health refers to material prosperity, education, employment, and fair trade, and Social Equality focuses on topics of human rights, justice, and participation.
All the pillars need to be in balance and in check to achieve sustainability and sustainable development.
So in order to truly live a more sustainable lifestyle, we must all consider the ways that our lives interact and impact each of the pillars. How can this help you form your personal, professional, political and philanthropic sustainable doings?
That’s why we’ve made this list! Each of our suggestions offers options, with balance and consideration of the 4 pillars, helping you to prioritise actions that you can take to live a more sustainable life. And it’s ok to just pick one or two from the list, start off small and build on it, slow and steady changes are more likely to be maintained than slapdash ones, so don’t punish yourself for not completing the list!
We’ve also followed our suggestions with a look at how companies are doing their bit, because large companies run the world - just 100 companies are accountable for 70% of emissions. So it is important for us to hold them to account, and to recognise how they are helping us progress (or regress in some cases) toward a more sustainable future for all.
So let us begin.
Top 10 Ways to Live More Sustainably in 2021
1. Bank Responsibly
What: Watch your pennies.
Why: Every penny, pound or cent you’ve ever put in your bank doesn’t just sit there waiting for you to spend it. Banks use this money to make investments to make their money, so it is important for you to know what sort of investments your bank are making.
Many large banks are still funding fossil fuels, which we know are seriously damaging for the environment and one of the main causes of climate change, in fact, few banks have divested entirely.
The Facts: Above we mentioned that 70% of the emissions could be traced to 100 companies, and those companies would not be where they were without banks funding them. - JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America together account for 30% of all fossil fuel financing from 35 global banks since 2015.
Check what sort of policy your bank has – it is ethically responsible and well as environmentally and socially responsible? You should be able to find this policy on their website, and you can also look at independent sources, like those used in the facts above.
We would also recommend you check out the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a network of independent banks all over the globe that use finance to deliver “sustainable economic, social and environmental development.”
To learn more about banks and fossil fuel investment, have a look at his handy report, flick to page 8 for the league table of banks financing fossil fuels.
Both lists offer decent alternatives with green considerations.
At the same time it might be worth checking out who your pension or retirement fund is with, the same theories apply here.
The moral of the story? Do your research, look at how your bank invests and decide whether this aligns with your own personal priorities. You can also write to your bank manager and urge them to change their investments, enough letters from all of us will push them to address the problem.
2. Energy Usage
What: Get energetic about energy.
Why: Yes, this is not new information, but it is still one of the top ways that you can have a positive impact on the environment.
Most people consume energy with very little thought, it is now second nature to us to switch on lights and plug in multiple devices - but the link between energy consumption and the environment is still a relevant topic.
If you consume less power, power plants that rely on fossil fuels release less toxic fumes, and so by reducing your energy usage you preserve not just the air quality but the ecosystems that depend on it.
Fuel burned = greenhouse gas emissions. Basically, creating cheap energy for us costs the earth.
The Facts: In the US alone electricity production accounted for 26.9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. This is why being focused on reducing energy consumption or switching to renewables can still have a serious impact on the planet.
“Renewable energy grew three times faster than fossil fuels and nuclear over a five-year period, but accounted for less than one-third of the increase in total final energy demand."
In Practice: So, what can you do? You can get in touch with your current energy supplier and see if they offer green options so you can get your power from a renewable source, many suppliers now offer this as a service.
In some countries, there are government schemes that allow you to check your household energy usage or carbon footprint as well as more and more affordable household energy monitors reaching the market.
If you can’t get renewable or green energy from your current supplier, see if you can switch, this will vary much depending on where you live. But switching supplier is not always an option, it can depend on your location and your budget as to what options are available, so if you can't switch right now, you can follow these simple steps to reduce your energy usage: 1. Change your behaviors - consume your energy more consciously. 2. Turn off lights you don’t need - embrace natural light or use desk lamps instead of ceiling lights. 3. Turn down the heat - wear an extra jumper instead or try a smart thermostat that aims to stabilise the temperature of your home avoiding highs and lows that can drain your energy. 4. Air dry clothes - avoid a tumble dryer when you can, this consumes a lot of energy. Whilst you're at it, take a look at other appliances and their energy consumption, even items with the energy star sticker can still drain large amounts of electricity. 5. Unplug unused electric devices - did you know devices on stand-by account for 10% of your energy bill? 6. Investigate solar panels - whilst this can mean big investment upfront, long-term benefits for you and the environment will be made, if this isn't an option for you, you could try community solar, learn more here. 7. Insulate - ensure your house is well insulated, many government-run schemes help you to do this, or fund part of the upgrade, you can also check that windows are properly sealed and glazed well to keep in the heat. 8. Change your lightbulbs - though the lightbulb revolution is not new, it is still one of the most simple and effective ways to reduce energy consumption, using LED or CFLS can reduce energy consumption by 80%.
In the long run, most of these actions should also save you money on your energy bill - so what have you got to lose?
3. Be an Engaged Citizen
What: Get Involved.
Why: By getting involved in causes that advance sustainability you are actively making a difference. Taking the time to participate in advancing either community or worldwide organisations in some way, is a great way to make an impact.
Everyone starts somewhere, and contrary to popular belief ‘taking part’ does not necessarily mean being on the picket line and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.
There are many ways that you can be involved in causes close to your heart as well as those larger topics like equality, social justice, and the environment.
The Facts: Those who volunteer regularly have a 27% better chance of gaining employment. (Source:Volunteer Hub)
Giving back is good for your health:
"People who give their time to help others through community had greater self-esteem, life satisfaction and sense of purpose."
In Practice: Investing time in local community projects or even global projects, that improve social or environmental impact does pay off. Not only will you feel great for your contribution but many groups and organisations rely on volunteers to stay afloat so getting involved in some way is vital.
There are thousands of positions and roles volunteering can offer, from helping at special events, or using your skills to help an organisation work on something specific. If you struggle to find the time for this sort of work, consider offering monthly donations instead.
If that isn’t for you, why not get more involved with your local authorities, find out who is in charge of environmental projects and see if they are doing a good job - or if they need help. Can you ask them to make a commitment to protect the environment? A local landmark? A group of vulnerable people?
Even writing simple letters makes you an engaged citizen, better still you could start your own group with goals that aim to address issues within your community.
Being an engaged citizen comes in many shapes and forms, here at Impaakt we have a community of people contributing to a global database of impact and sustainability information. Our members write about some of the largest companies in the world, highlighting their environment and social impact - they also get paid for their contribution. For those without the time to write, joining Impaakt and rating the articles that members contribute, is just as essential. Ratings are what generate and influence the company impact scores. Why is this work so important? By shaping the company impact scores, you are directly helping others to decide whether a company is having a positive or negative impact on the planet, and from those scores, people from all over the world can buy from, work for and invest in, businesses with the most positive impact and chose to divest or avoid, those having a negative impact. Hence, engaging in this sort of work is essential.
So yes, sitting behind your computer and using your voice can make a difference, leaving your mark in areas that matter is important and can drastically improve local communities as well as advance topics and conversations that aim to change the world we live in.
4. Travel Smart
What: Be in the driving seat of your emissions.
Why: More often than not we are seeing airlines talk about how they are using carbon off-setting to reduce their carbon footprint, why? Because air travel is not good for the environment, nor are many other means of travel in fact, many modes of transport give off damaging pollutants that heat the planet.
In recent years the transport revolution has begun - but we’re not there yet, so you need to play your part in being a smart traveler.
The Facts: Aviation contributes about 2% of the world's global carbon emissions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) And predictions also indicate that there will be over 8.7 billion air travellers by 2037.
In Practice: So how can you play your part in reducing the overall emissions that transport has on the planet? Well, we have just established that air travel is a big player in this department, having the greatest impact per passenger mile than any other means, and so what is the best way to reduce this impact?
The obvious answer here is to travel by air less, try to limit the number of flights you take each year, or take vacations closer to home, giving back to your countries' economy by spending your money with local businesses.
And if you must travel by air, use carbon offsetting to account for your passenger footprint, taking responsibility for your emissions is a great first step.
Try Cool Effect or My Climate, here you can calculate your emissions and pay for them to be offset through their community projects like the ‘Safe Water Project’ that provides access to safe water to 500,000 people using solar-powered water disinfectors, this way the earth and the communities living on it benefit, win-win.
If you are going to carbon offset, be sure that the people you choose have certifications by standard groups that ensure your money goes to the right causes, learn more here.
You can also ensure you travel economy, due to the larger area taken up, business class and first-class seats have footprints 3- 9x higher.
How about seeing if you can reach your destination by train? Bus? Both have a lower carbon footprint.
But don't stop on just your trips or holidays, what about your day-to-day travel, can you try cycling to work? Can you leave the car at home in place of the train occasionally? Can you share your car? And even simple actions like ensuring your car tires are fully inflated can save on fuel, better still the electric car revolution is growing, with more and more affordable car options arising each year.
5. Eat Local
What: Regional produce for the win.
Why: By purchasing food from local vendors you support your local food system which is not only good for the planet but good for your community. It reduces the miles your food has to travel; this comes back to transport emissions as food in large supermarket chains has often travelled long distances to get there.
On top of this, food brought locally tends to be fresher, food travelling from other countries or areas need preservatives to stay fresh so more chemicals are added to keep things from going bad.
Local suppliers often produce organic produce so they've avoided pesticides, pesticides contribute to pollutants in the air, and other environmental issues like groundwater contamination on top of the potential health dangers associated with pesticides. By going local, you support the local community, the local economy as well as your health.
The Facts: Food travels on average 1,500 miles before it gets to your plate.
In Practice: Even if it is just a portion of your weekly shop, see if you can hunt down local vendors or markets where you can find food from your region. Some supermarkets have local sections too, making it more convenient to incorporate in your weekly food shop.
And this is not just about shopping local, it’s about shopping smart - try planning your meals to avoid buying items on impulse or because they are on ‘offer,’ clever marketing tactics can lead you to think you’re getting a good deal, when in reality you are buying too much – and this ends up as food waste.
You should be able to find, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat raised locally, at most markets or farm shops. Shopping in this manner also reduces packaging waste that is all too often found on supermarket shelves (often to protect it on it’s long journey!) so you’ll be hitting a double whammy by adopting a new approach to your food consumption.
What: Make your voice heard.
Why: Voting for candidates and political parties that prioritise social and environmental issues will benefit the long-term progress toward a more sustainable future. These are the people who decide whether they want to protect civil rights, they set environmental agendas and policies, they have the power to dictate jurisdiction that can affect our lives profoundly, so voting gives you the ability to raise your voice and fuel issues that you care about.
The Facts: If you think that voting does not make a difference, we’ve got some stats for you:
"In 2000, Al Gore narrowly lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush. The election came down to a recount in Florida, where Bush had won the popular vote by such a small margin that it triggered an automatic recount and a Supreme Court case (Bush v. Gore). In the end, Bush won Florida by 0.009 percent of the votes cast in the state, or 537 votes. Had 600 more pro-Gore voters gone to the polls in Florida that November, there may have been an entirely different president from 2000–2008."
In Practice: Voting has not always been the right of many groups, so don’t waste your voice when so many have fought to get theirs. Your first step in participating in voting will be to get clued up on your local political parties as well as the party leaders on a larger scale, in the US, the government website here helps voters decide who to vote for, and in the UK you can find the political party manifesto’s here.
We also like this guide put together by the New York Times on how to get more involved in politics, it is tailored to the US but there are many lines that can be drawn internationally, our favorites pieces are:
1. Learn the voting laws in your country/area.
2. Stay accountable with a voting plan.
3. Vote strategically or help grow a 3rd party that needs momentum.
This is your chance to decide who gets to make decisions about issues you care about, even if you don't think your candidate will win, you show their opposition what is important to you by voting, so they know how to change their policies to win more votes next time, so get out there!
What: Be a brand ambassador for the good guys.
Why: Being a brand ambassador, conscious consumer or a company advocate, highlights the good businesses and calls on the bad to change, it means getting clued up about the brands you interact with and deciding if their values align with yours.
More and more people are looking for the best sustainable businesses, companies that do more than just sell us stuff or services, they want to support businesses that invest their time and energy in causes that have a positive impact, however many of us are still unknowingly supporting businesses that might have poor values when it comes to their environmental and social impact.
By becoming a ‘conscious consumer,’ as the term has been coined, you make every purchasing decision by being totally informed about who you’re shopping with and do your best to make purchase decisions that have a positive environmental, social, economic, or even political impact.
The Facts: 100 companies account for 70% of global greenhouse emissions.
In Practice: Try to focus your time on where you spend the largest proportion of your outgoings, if most of it goes on day-to-day amenities, look into the grocery store chain you shop with, how do they treat their employees? What are their plans on reducing their carbon footprint? Do they do any charitable giving?
You’ll be amazed at the things you find, our platform Impaakt, does just that, reporting on both the positive and negative environmental and social impact of businesses. These impact articles feed into a company impact score, so you can work out who you want to buy from, work for, or invest in.
So we can’t just shut down all the bad guys, and the water is often a lot murkier than good and bad, the answer is to call them out on their damaging business practices by spending your hard-earned money elsewhere, in the process, you'll be encouraging them to change their ways, or, better still, join the Impaakt community to hold them to account.
8. Live with Less
What: Let’s talk consumerism.
Why: Following on from being a conscious consumer and someone who advocates for the good businesses in the world, how about we take a look at reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’ altogether?
Retail events like Black Friday now urge shoppers to purchase things they don't need, through countless and often fabricated discounts, all the time encouraging mindless materialism.
Our consumer habits, formed through years of social programming and clever marketing ploys, are contributing to the destruction of our planet - but the buck stops at us, we have the final say in what we buy.
Material possessions are just that: material, it is us that has the power to bring happiness into our own lives. Emotional satisfaction can be achieved through friendship, hobbies and family time, so why do we just keep shopping? Especially when the facts dictate that even temporary highs from buying these products, do not result in long-term happiness.
The time has come to let go of overconsumption and try to live more simply, not only because it is better for us, but because it is better for the planet, consumption has negative impacts on its entire journey:
The production of the item.
The packaging of the item, plus added packaging used for shipping.
The delivery of the item.
Waste and lack of recycling of existing products which we are replacing/discarding, not to mention those new products that go unused.
"Production, processing, and consumption, of commodities requires the extraction and use of natural resources (wood, ore, fossil fuels, and water); it requires the creation of factories and factory complexes whose operation creates toxic byproducts, while the use of commodities themselves (e.g. automobiles) creates pollutants and waste." (Source: Global Issues.org)
- We consume twice as many material products as we did 50 years ago. - 60% of greenhouse gas emissions come from household consumption of goods and services. (Source:Forbes)
- People are buying 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago. - 85% of man-made materials found on shorelines were microfibers, synthetic materials used in clothing. (Source: Climate Tracker.org)
In Practice: To move toward reducing your consumption,take a look at resources like The Story of stuff, a social project aiming to help educate people on overconsumption as well as get them involved in projects that solve the problem.
Other resources like - Be More With Less help people start to live more simply, created by the same woman who made Project 333, a challenge for people to go 3 months wearing just 33 items of clothing (and yes, that includes accessories.)
Talking of fashion, as you can see by the facts we’ve pulled out, this industry is one of the key consumerist pieces of the puzzle. Fast fashion has been a major contributor to the growth of the fashion industry, where brands produce low-cost high-volume items. Fast fashion’s environmental impact can be disastrous to the Earth’s atmosphere, with this new wave of consumption producing greenhouse gas emissions.
Other detrimental factors include the depletion of non-renewable sources and the use of huge amounts of water and energy. The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water in the consumer industry, requiring about 700 gallons to produce one cotton shirt.
Chasing trends is not sustainable and it’s not just fast fashion’s environmental impact we're talking about, we’re talking technology, automobiles you name it, so do what you can to repair and repurpose your possessions before you consider buying new.
There's a lot of work needed on this topic, we'll be pushing against the basic structure of an economy that relies on goods and services being sold, but we have to start somewhere.
Researching and learning about sustainable clothing brands through Impaakt’s analyses is a great start, but you can also try a few of these simple steps to live with less:
1. Stop trying to emulate others, by always trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses' and their lifestyle you’ll find yourself burdened with needing the next big thing, it’ll amaze you how little you need when you stop looking at others.
2. Declutter and give items to charity that you have not used in 3 months, focus on only purchasing things from ethical clothing brands that you actually need, not want. Living with less doesn’t mean throwing everything out, it means accounting for items and objects that matter.
3. Experiment with a no shopping challenge, why not set yourself a target to go 60 days without a new consumer purchase. Then when you do, again, make sure they are from sustainable fashion brands.
9. Sustainability at Work
What: Be the office hero.
Why: We spend a hell of a lot of time at work, and many of us spend it in an office of some sort, in fact we spend a third of our time there if you must know.
So whilst all our new home habits are adding up to do some good, we can’t forget about the workplace. By being an employee that pushes forward the best sustainable practices in your office or place of work, you can make a difference, both from a social perspective, by addressing equal pay and diversity, as well as from an environmental impact.
- Office buildings use approximately 19% of all energy consumed in the United States.
- The U.S. uses approximately 68 million trees each year to produce paper and paper products.
Exploring ways that you can implore your office and employer to be more sustainable is a great start, a step up from this would be getting your business to adopt more sustainable practices in their day to day and not just in the office.
Here are some ideas you can implement to make an impact:
1. Ensure there is a good recycling system in place, make it clear and easy for people to recycle.
2. Go paperless – suggest a reduction in the number of printers in your office to deter people from printing, with so much work happening online these days, this should be a quick win
3. Look into motion light switches to save energy as well as unplugging standby equipment, you can also encourage users to use ‘power saving mode’ which helps preserve battery life and reduce the amount of power used when they are not in use.
4. Encourage your team members to bring their own bottle to work, save on plastic water bottles or water cooler cups.
5. Establish your own sustainability team or task force, your business might not have the time or capital to have one, so it could be left up to you to encourage and implement these practices.
You can also push the agenda of sustainability by speaking with your senior management team, if there are no existing Corporate Social Responsibility policies in place, or if you don’t think existing guidelines are not robust enough - speak up, make suggestions to be up there with the best sustainable businesses.
And again, it’s not just about the environment, how is your workplace positioned on equality? Diversity? Equal pay? You can start a group or start a conversation with those in charge, if that's you then be sure you are participating in these issues, whether these topics impact you or not, your involvement in the conversation helps to make it a priority for your business.
10. Gain Knowledge & Share Knowledge
What: Let’s talk about it!
Why: It has never been more important to talk about sustainability and the core ideas that surround it.
In doing so, these ideas and actions spread and you become part of a movement of people that educate and elevate the conversation. The well-known saying that ‘knowledge is power’ certainly comes into play here, so what use is this newly found knowledge - if you don’t share it?
Whilst it can be difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to talk to people about climate change, pollution, social justice, or equality, it is important that we continue to seek out the important facts, educate ourselves, and go on to share and discuss our findings.
In Practice: You can start by simply sharing interesting websites and resources you find, be careful what you find on social media though, be sure to check the sources are reliable before sharing, misinformation and disinformation on platforms like Twitter and Facebook are still rife.
You could even create a what’s app group amongst friends where you can share tips, tricks and interesting articles that you feel will add value to everyone’s sustainability journey. By creating a safe and inclusive ecosystem amongst people in your network you also encourage debate, and that’s good too!
If you are feeling brave, why not start a conversation up with a stranger about the environment or the climate, we love this guide from Grist about how to go about it.
We also found this guide useful in addressing ways to talk about race, racism, and racial justice with some really insightful ways that you might be able to better advance these issues with those lacking in knowledge or information.
How are companies doing their bit?
Looking beyond Corporate Social Responsibility
The real truth is that companies are often compelled to continue with activities that have a negative impact on the planet and society by the systems in which we operate in, the best example being the emphasis we put on economic growth.
They are major drivers of environmental and social impact, but they have the power to change, as much as we do.
Here are some good examples of businesses making steps toward sustainable practices, actions, and impact:
You can read hundreds of articles about the impact of businesses here on impaakt.com, both the positive stories like the above, as well as negative impact articles. Learn more about how companies' products, services, and core workings impact the planet and society, or better yet get involved in measuring their impact by joining our community!
Sustainability : Reloaded
We hope this article got you thinking, whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, by taking on one or two suggestions, collectively we can make a big impact on our planet.
Sustainability is a global issue, one that not only demands change and action from governments and businesses alike, but that requires action from everyone in order to excel its progress. That sort of change begins to gather momentum when more of us adopt these positive habits, but is the concept of sustainability accessible enough yet or does it still feel too distant?
When the pandemic struck, it triggered a metaphorical lasso, this lasso scooped up all the hard work, conversations, and progress being made and locked them tightly away in a cupboard for a rainy day, or one less pandemic drenched.
It would be foolish to ignore the fact that a new set of priorities lead the heard now, priorities of basic human needs: food, water, job security - however many of those things cannot exist without sustainability in balance.
So how are things looking as we embark into this ‘new norm’ of sustainability: reloaded?
Whilst our human activity paused for a moment, it was not enough to undo years of damage to the environment, or social repression. Despite many outlets heralding that the positive impact on the environment was a happy side effect of the lockdown, the facts suggest there will be no long-lasting positive impact from the pandemic, nor was this enough to stop our world in motion for longer than absolutely necessary.
The real happy side effect, is how many of us began to think more clearly about what makes us happy and gives us meaning.
Could we perhaps view this pause, as more of a re-birth? Where we as the human race have the chance to emerge as butterflies, whose values have evolved from those held before, shifting from our sometimes-egocentric lifestyles to values with the bigger picture in mind?
If we reflect on some of our behaviour during the lockdown, it was those sustainable values bubbling up more than any others, that sense of community - giving, sharing and caring, and those simple things we sought out for comfort - love, laughter, family, connections, and for many, nature.
By reinventing ourselves, we also have the ability to reinvent the meaning of sustainability somewhat, by making it more inclusive and people-focused, rather than this far off academic term lacking in definition, unreachable in nature.
Instead, we must own it, in order to sustain our lives, our livelihood, our future.
This re-birth, as corny as it sounds, is our chance to claim sustainability as ours to deliver.
Will we continue with these new values, worn as a badge of honor? Will we allow them to guide us in a more meaningful way to progress sustainability? Or will they be gone and forgotten as we go back to 'normal'?