Sustainability...What Is It Really?



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, https://sdgs.un.org/goals). 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:



Environmental

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.

Economic

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


Social

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!
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