What are a good sustainable definitions or sustainable synonyms? Sustainability has become a popular word. You hear it everywhere and in all kinds of contexts. However, most people don’t really know the true definition of sustainability. Is ‘going green’ or ‘flying less’ a synonym for sustainability? It appears that sustainability is used to relate all kinds of things: cars, flying economics, agriculture, lifestyle, production processes, etc.
So what are the true sustainable definitions?
Sustainability doesn’t have one clear definition. It’s rather a concept. Bluedashed has asked several experts about their misconceptions, sustainable definitions and sustainable synonyms. With their responses we have constructed 10 truths about sustainability, which you’ll find below.
These truths reflect the true sustainable definitions.
Truth 1: Nobody really knows the sustainable definitions
Although this claim is not really true, it does have a truth in it. In the UN report Our Common Future from 1987, sustainability is defined as:
“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
In easy words, this means: don’t use more than your fair share. It greatly relates to our ecological footprint.
Strangely, though, the word ‘sustainability’ has been claimed by environmentalists, while the concept of sustainability, the sustainable definitions, is way wider.
Read more: 10 great examples of sustainable design.
Truth 2: Sustainability is not all about the environment
In the above mentioned UN report, sustainability is defined to find a way for poor countries to increase their standard of living by better access to natural resources. It’s about a better division of resources so poor countries have the possibility of catch up. This definition has a clear economic meaning.
However, the definition of sustainability also quickly included waste production and environmental damage in terms of preserving the earth not only for current people, but also for future generations. For example, CO2 emissions were included into de definition of sustainability, as CO2 emissions damage the air we breath.
Going back to the first definition, sustainability is primarily about a fair division of resources among people currently inhabiting the earth, but also for future generations. This is both economically, environmentally and socially.
Truth 3: Sustainability not a synonym of green
The sustainability definition of ‘green’ suggests a preference for natural elements over artificial elements. However, in the original definition of sustainability, this differentiation is not made.
With almost 7 billion people living on earth today, and another three billion in the near future, we need to rely more on technological solutions to guarantee an acceptable standard of living for the future generations.
Such solutions are already available. Think of wind energy, electric cars, solar panels, etc. Small solar panels allow poor people all around the world to cook, charge their devices and warm their houses without causing CO2 pollution or using non-renewable resources. The use of solar panels is a great technological solution.
Truth 4: Recycling is not the main sustainable synonym
Many people assume that a sustainable lifestyle basically evolves around recycling, reusing and repurposing materials and resources. I understand why people think this way. A more efficient way of using existing materials definitely fits in the sustainability definition. However, the most important areas to make the world more sustainable are in terms of energy, resources and transportations. This is where we can make improvements.
Do you think you live a sustainable lifestyle because you recycle? Then think again, and include sustainable transportation and social equality into your lifestyle goals.
Truth 5: Sustainability is not expensive and can in fact be cheap and accessible
It is an enormous myth that a sustainable lifestyle is expensive. Many people immediately think of a bill of thousands of dollars for making their home more sustainable.
Sustainability is not about these short term costs, but rather about the long term gains. It is exactly this that people fail to comprehend. Start by changing a LED-light bulb or buy an eco-friendly appliance once your current one breaks down. Or when you are a company, check out these sustainable procurement tips.
Do realize that you do have to spend some money to be sustainable on the long term. This counts for you and me, but also for big companies. However, these initial costs will be paid back on the long term.
Truth 6: Sustainable means a higher standard of living
Once we all try to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle, we will all gain at the end. Sustainability can in fact make our lives better, nicer, healthier and more comfortable. Sustainability can actually be a powerful economic stimulator, creating new jobs around the world.
Truth 7: Government intervention is necessary
Of course social action is needed to change our mindset. However, the biggest gain can be made by government intervention. Policies and subsidiaries can stimulate investments today, in order to become more sustainable tomorrow.
We are where we are today due to free market economies. However, it appears the cheap and easy always wins over sustainability, because sustainability asks for an investment upfront. In other words: the free market economy and sustainability follow a counter way of thinking about economics. Also, focusing on renewable resources instead of non-renewable resources simply doesn’t fit a capitalistic mindset.
Government regulations can change this. For example, by tax advantages or stimulation programs.
Read more: Can sustainable programming fight climate change?
Truth 8: Technology is not always the answer
There is definitely a lot to gain with new technologies, but new business models can also make a difference in spreading sustainable solutions across the globe.
Truth 9: Sustainability is also a population problem
It’s a fact that the world population has increasing rapidly in the last couple of years. We do need to change our perception on resources. And if we want the world population to survive, we need to find ways to better share resources and spread new technological solutions to ensure a certain standard of living for everyone, also 20 years later.
Truth 10: Sustainability is easy to understand
Not really. The solutions for the future appear to be more complex than most of us realize. Solutions that seem obvious, can after some research turn out to lead to unforeseen costs and environmental damage. Change therefor requires thought and research.
You’ve done a great job already! Reading is fundamental and information is the road to a more sustainable world!