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Getting back to basics…

Sustainability is a word that can frequently become overly saturated with use to the point that many don’t know the meaning of the word at all. The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “able to continue over a period of time” but it can also describe a certain lifestyle of meeting our own needs without negatively affecting future generations from meeting their own needs (McGill University, This idea arose from the necessity to place an important link between environment, human livelihood and economic development. But as a young generation with common concern for the environment, and a passion for disturbing the status quo, we want to redefine what sustainability means.

The word evokes a certain image, and a feeling connected to it, when we hear it in our daily lives. When you think “sustainability,” you might think of recycling waste, cleaning the oceans, and protecting our rainforests, which is connected to such a meaning of the word, but it only encompasses a fraction of what it means to be “sustainable”. This word does not only limit itself to only the environment, but also extends into both economic and social development. We can all lead a sustainable lifestyle in many ways, beyond recycling and using less plastic, begging the question, in what forms does sustainability exist around us?

More than just recycling...a way of life!

The three pillars concept is the imminent result of the academic literature about social and ecological perspectives on different circumstances and issues relating to the environment. The concept was first introduced in 1987 and covers the notion of sustainability as the intersection of Economic, Environment and Social aspects of the current age we live in. The article mentions that the descriptive fields that represent the pillars are in a way arbitrary. There are no strict parameters or a defined meaning of sustainability, most favorably leaning towards an open concept that can be interpreted in many different ways. Sustainability can be viewed differently and it is definitely not defined only by one action. These pillars work symbiotically to upkeep the broader scale of sustainability itself:


This pillar often gets the most attention, focusing on a commitment to protecting the environment by minimizing carbon footprints, water consumption, and other potentially damaging actions to the environment. Earth’s delicate balance of cycles in climate, water, carbon, nitrogen and so on is deeply impacted by humans. To keep this balance, we must focus on preserving natural resources, reducing waste, and being aware of our carbon footprints.


It’s important to participate in an economic system that is responsible and encourages ethical production, distribution, and consumption. Companies must make a profit in order to survive, but these profits cannot be held above the other two pillars. In other words, companies cannot make a profit at the expense of the environmental and societal factors. To do this, many companies often opt to use renewable raw materials or craft their own products from recycled items. Regulation is key in this pillar, with governmental incentives to create a more sustainable market! Other than governmental incentives, many companies see a financial benefit from the reduction of materials, energy, and water as seen from the cyclical process of


Society is an often overlooked aspect of sustainability, but is dedicated to understanding and managing the positive and negative effects of business on people. Companies have a direct or indirect impact on what happens to their employees, value chain workers, consumers, and local communities, so it is critical to manage these impacts proactively. However it is not just about the companies, social sustainability may be seen everywhere. It may be in elementary or secondary schools, health care, housing and urban planning, or workplaces. In a reactive sense, social sustainability is about not inflicting harm to others and not reproducing injustices. In a more proactive view, social sustainability is about intentionally lowering and overcoming existing inequities so that everyone can reach their full potential as an individual in a relational environment.

In the age of Tik Tok...

In current times, the world has transitioned into a bubble of even higher complexity than before, and with it the definition of what it means to sustain has adapted accordingly. The existence of humans has fused with the advancing technology of the machines around us. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram have revolutionized what it means to communicate in the 21st century, bringing out a paradigm shift not only in the way we communicate, but also absorb information, in various ways and forms. Long gone are the days of long-form texts and literature, as we now embrace and enjoy the advent of snippets, memes, and other forms of ‘idea deliveries’ to learn about what we can do to help the earth get back to thriving.

Simple changes, big impact…

Sustainability is versatile, which makes it easy to adopt certain habits that can help the environment, as we encourage our volunteers here at DANSIC to do and lead by example.

Here are five things you can do to become more sustainable today:

  1. Shop wisely. From impulsive purchases to fast fashion, purchasing without thinking about the aftermath of the impact is detrimental to the environment. Try to buy objects that are truly necessary and that are going to last for a longer period of time. (Kick Zara to the curb and try buying from a Secondhand or eco-friendly shop instead!)

  2. Avoid the NFT craze. NFTs have gained immense popularity in recent years, allowing people to gain ownership of things like digital art, videos, songs, or images. Unfortunately this new market has detrimental effects on the environment due to high energy consumption, generating 38 million tons of CO2 per year (more than the carbon footprint of Slovakia)! So it’s best to steer clear of these harmful transactions!

  3. Bike, walk and use public transportation more often. Besides the health benefits biking and walking brings, it also reduces your carbon footprint. Taking the bus, train or any public transportation is another way of reducing your contribution to the carbon emissions in our atmosphere. (Those boots were made for walking after all!)

  4. Exercise your right to vote. Believe it or not, voting is a part of sustainability! Choosing representatives that support green policies and initiatives is vital to the fate of our planet and the ability to make changes. (Your vote counts so make good use of it!)

  5. Flex your artistic muscle. No matter your art skills, you can make your voice heard on both personal and global issues! If you want to send an impactful message about environmental issues or have a hobby that has zero to small waste, sustainable art is your answer. Find your inspiration in the things you already have laying around your home, or that could be saved from becoming waste. (One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!)

Stay tuned for more information on our upcoming DANSIC22 Event!

If you regularly visit coffee shops, keep up with the newest food trends, or are just generally concerned with the environment and your health, chances are you’ve played around with plant-based milk alternatives at one point or another. If not, ehm.. where have you been? In this article, we dig into the billion-dollar industry that capitalises on the milking of oats and nuts whilst remarkably transforming consumer decision making.

DANSIC21, and this year’s case competition, is all about sustainability and individual practices contributing towards a circular economy. It is no surprise that we ended up here, talking about the dairy industry, which is one of the greatest contributors to climate change and other environmental issues such as deforestation, desertification and soil degradation. With way over 7 billion people on the planet to feed, agriculture and other forms of land use are significantly increasing anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. More specifically, animal agriculture is closely linked to the emission of methane, which has 28 times higher impact on global warming than carbon dioxide. But what does your double-shot grande latte have to do with all of this?

Considering that one glass of dairy milk results in almost three times more greenhouse gas emission than any plant-based option, the latter seems to be the obvious choice. And for many people, it is the favourable option, not because they’re lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, but because of the positive surge in accessibility and increased understanding around their impact on the planet. However, vegan alternatives come with issues of their own.

Photograph: Luigi Giordano/Getty Images/iStockphoto

When you think of alternative alternatives, the list goes on longer than you can count: oat, rice, soy, almond, cashew, macadamia, hemp, coconut, pea and pistachio just to name a few. One may assume that older generations would frown upon the idea of drinking “milk” made out of nuts and legumes, however, the original concept dates all the way back to the 1950s. That’s when the very first dairy-free milk alternative, soy milk, started appearing on supermarket shelves in the United States. Soy milk remained the most popular alternative, predominantly because its profile closely resembles that of cow’s milk, and has a significantly high protein content. It was blazing the trail up until the early 2000s, when almond milk came into vogue, so much so that in 2013 its sales exceeded soy milk’s. In the past couple of years, several brands and manufacturers jumped on the plant-based bandwagon, propelling a positive shift towards more environmentally-conscious purchasing decisions.

As with most things on the market that require mass production and crop cultivation, there comes a dark side when we closely examine the production, supply chain and environmental impacts of the final product. Here’s a quick overview of the most popular milk substitutes and some of the concerns around them that you may want to consider before your next purchase:

  • RICE - low nutritional value

It is one of the most inexpensive alternatives on the market, however, on top of being a water-guzzler, rice milk offers very little in terms of nutritional content and environmental benefits.

  • ALMOND - poor bees

Despite being the ruler of the plant-based liquid kingdom for years, recent studies raised serious concerns about the detrimental effects of almond tree plantations in California. High demand for almonds resulted in unsustainable pressure on beekeepers to get bees to pollinate enough cropland, subsequently killing large amounts of bees. Almond trees are also the most water-intensive dairy alternative, though requiring smaller territory of farmland than other variants.

  • COCONUT - exploitation of workers

Since coconut plantations require a tropical climate, the pressure is extremely high on workers in such regions of the world to meet the global demand for the plant. This often results in the underpayment of workers and deforestation in the area.

  • HAZELNUT - delicious and friendly

If you are in doubt about what to replace your trusty almond milk with that has a relatively similar flavour profile but is more environmentally friendly, hazelnut milk is your friend. Interestingly, hazelnut trees have the ability to pull carbon from the atmosphere instead of increasing it, whilst being pollinated by the wind, instead of bees. A sweet deal, quite literally.

  • SOY - ramp up the protein

Coming close to the end of the list, we must come back to this trusty old friend, soy. It fell out of favour as it contains some hormones similar to the ones found in the human body, however, it’s still the most nutritious, high-protein milk alternative on the market. Its drawback is similar to most other crops—it’s grown in massive quantities which has often resulted in deforestation.

  • OAT - the new star

It seems to be the safest option out there, at least for now. Oat milk shows stellar results in sustainability metrics, and we already grow plenty of it for other agricultural purposes, offering excess crops to be used for milk production without the need for additional plantations. Oat can also grow in cooler climates, thus not linked to deforestation in developing countries.

Ultimately, as long as you aim to move away from dairy and replace it with any plant-based alternative, you’re doing a great job for the planet. Most options will have some sort of shortcoming, but even the smallest of changes in your daily consumption can help move towards more sustainable practices on a larger scale. We hope you found some useful information above and will check back soon for more.

This year at DANSIC, we’ve been talking a lot about the importance of waste management, the reduction of plastic use, and ways to popularise these topics. Our discussions often revolve around the concept of the circular economy, also referred to as circularity. It is a framework for designing an economy that is restorative and regenerative, in which economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. Ultimately, it’s an approach aimed at creating value and prosperity through innovative design. It can be done by extending product lifespan and by relocation waste from the end of a supply chain to its beginning, creating a circular system.

Its foundation lies in the idea that through the use of creativity and innovation, we can re-think and re-design how our economic system functions, and shift our perspective and methods away from a linear approach. The notion itself has deep historical and philosophical roots, synthesising various schools of thought: the functional service economy (performance economy) of Walter Stahel; the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy of William McDonough and Michael Braungart; biomimicry as articulated by Janine Benyus; the industrial ecology of Reid Lifset and Thomas Graedel; natural capitalism by Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken; and the blue economy systems approach described by Gunter Pauli.

If you prefer visuals over text, here’s a quick animation to give you a brief overview:

A circular economic system is underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, which could represent long-term resilience whilst generating new business and economic opportunities as well as environmental and social benefits.

The three underlying principles of the circular economy are:

  1. Reducing waste and pollution through innovative design

  2. Keeping using and re-using products and materials

  3. Regenerating natural systems

Whilst these are applicable on a systemic level, there is plenty of initiatives we can take up in our own lives to contribute to a positive change. Imagine a plastic water bottle that you may buy every week when out and about. Have you ever thought about the 450 years it will take for it to decompose in a landfill when you’re sipping on the sparking water? Next time you throw the bottle in the bin, try visualising that. It can be useful in understanding the linear take-make-waste model, and how you could help transition towards a more circular recycle-reuse-use-resue-remake approach.

If you’re keen on implementing a couple of everyday practices that support circularity, here’s a checklist for inspiration:

  • Understand rubbish rules

There might be certain recycling rules in place in the area you live, so make sure you’re familiar with what type of waste you can mix, which labels or lids you have to take off or leave on etc.

  • Avoid impulse shopping

As you have probably heard it, the most sustainable clothes you can wear are the ones you already own. Remember that!

  • Give away what you don’t need

One man’s waste is another man’s treasure. Instead of getting rid of old clothes, items, tools you no longer need, see if you can gift it to someone else who could make good use of it.

  • Be prepared

Water bottles, shopping bags, coffee cups, cutlery.. try to think in advance when you’ll need these and bring them with you instead of buying disposable ones each time.

  • Use less packaging

This applies both to the items you purchase in shops and gifts you would normally wrap in layers of pretty but disposable layers. Check if there are a zero-waste shops you can access, and possibly mix up parts of your shopping routine.

We hope you found some inspiration in this article and possibly some motivation to implement some of the ideas from above. Remember, one person may not make a significant difference but being the change you want to see in the world can be extremely powerful.

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