What does sustainability really mean?

Sustainable lifestyle, sustainable brands, sustainable food. We keep hearing these over and over but does anyone know what they actually mean? What is sustainability, really? And why do the hippies say it’s so important?


If you haven’t been living under a rock in the past decade, you’ve probably heard some variation of the term or perhaps used products labelled as sustainable. You might have seen videos of angry activists tying themselves to a tree yelling about how we need to be more sustainable. 1 You probably put two and two together and figured out that it might have something to do with recycling, buying organic food, using renewable energy and preserving ecosystems. However, unless you’re someone who’s been around this block a few times, you don’t quite know what it actually means. So let’s dive right into it.

By textbook definition, sustainability is the capacity to exist constantly. To endure or continue. It is the ability of something to maintain itself. It means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Sustainability is simply put: thinking long term for the greater good. It’s preserving resources and energy, as opposed to exhausting them rapidly.

A common misconception is that sustainability is the same thing environmentalism. Sustainability is actually divided into three categories. There is Environmental Sustainability, Economic Sustainability and Social Sustainability. Let’s see what they’re about.

Environmental Sustainability:

Preserving, protecting and maintaining environmental resources for now and for the future. Now you can think of hippies. I’m joking, hippies knew nothing. This is about renewable energy, reducing emissions, protecting endangered species, climate change, ocean pollution, ecosystem collapse and so on. Basically what Greta’s been yelling about. I could go on forever, but I’m not here to depress you.

Economic Sustainability:

This branch refers to practices that support long-term economic growth without negatively impacting social, environmental, and cultural aspects of the community. It means investing money, as a society, with a long-term view in mind, so that we don’t negatively impact future generations. This can mean things like reducing National Debt and regulating our financial industry. Or even things like choosing to shop locally and supporting small businesses rather than industry titans.2

Social Sustainability:

This means making our society work for everyone. It’s making sure that every person has basic necessities like access to drinkable water, food, basic healthcare, shelter and education. It also means keeping a peaceful relationship between communities, social groups and nations. It’s sort of like the mental health of sustainability. It’s what keeps us, as a society, healthy and thriving.

On this blog, I’ll mostly be focusing on Environmental sustainability.

Why this matters

Now that I’ve managed to bore you to death, let’s talk about why this is important.

If someone offered you a choice between having a positive impact on the world or a negative one, would you choose the latter? Well, you’d have to be mental if you did and I’d be confused as to why you are on this blog. The choice is a very simple one. The average person, given the choice, will always try to do the right thing, to the best of their ability and knowledge. Rarely do we see people intentionally doing harm. The problem usually isn’t bad intention, it is lack of information.

So why is sustainability important? Because it affects all of us. It concerns all of us. You are not in a bubble. You’re not less affected simply because you think you are. You still live among trash and toxins, you eat and drink microplastics like the rest of us, you’re still inhaling literal shit. And honey, the free-range eggs you’re eatin’ aren’t free-range.

One small change at a time

If I were to ask you if you believe you can do more in order to live a more sustainable life, you might give me answers like “it’s too difficult” or “I don’t have the time” or “I can’t find sustainable stuff where I live”. In many cases that can be true. Living a sustainable lifestyle is, at the end of the day, a privilege. But since you are reading this on a laptop or a smartphone, you are privileged. Even if you might not have access to everything-sustainable, there are always things you can choose to do to reduce the negative impact on the environment. Sustainability doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass, it doesn’t need to be expensive and it doesn’t require that much time. Living more sustainably doesn’t mean doing it perfectly or investing a lot of money. All it takes is changing small habits over time, at your own pace and doing things that truly align with your principles. You can accompany me in my journey to sustainability, if that’s something that sounds interesting to you. Here’s a start.

In the meantime, there are a million things you can do to make the world a better place, one day at a time. Make more conscious decisions. Vote with your dollar. Be mindful of what businesses you support. Upcycle. Buy less plastic. Choose local products. Reduce your food waste. Eat the leftovers. Switch to textile bags. Help someone in need. Buy a homeless person a hot meal. Feed a starving animal. Donate some clothes to the poor. Become interested in what problems your community is facing. Do something, anything. There are so many easy ways to make a difference. You might feel that it won’t change the world, but trust me, for that one person, for that one animal, it will make all the difference.

And there will be one less plastic bag out in the wind.

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