What is Environmental Sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is defined as the way in which we responsibility interact with the planet to maintain natural resources, it’s the way in which we protect the planet for future generations.
GreenPeace reports that ecological awareness first appeared in the human record at least 5,000 years ago. But what about the modern Environmental Movement? According to Simon Fraser University the growth of technology and environmental politics dates back to the 1960s in the United States, when the concept of environmental sustainability first began reaching the masses. At that time, the concept was controversial. Luckily, the mindset that Earth has an abundance of materials to use has since shifted.
Slowly, but surely, “eco-friendly” has become a new hot topic across the globe, from product conception to production and distribution. In fact, product designers are creating with sustainability in mind; manufacturers are finding new ways to reduce the amount of carbon emissions during production; and consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious when it comes to shopping for themselves and their loved ones.
In this article, we’ll be talking about what environmental sustainability is, what sustainability goals currently look like for both the global and Canadian communities, and what actions you can take to live more sustainably today.
What is the definition of “Environmental Sustainability”?
When you hear “environmental sustainability,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Reusable grocery bags, paper straws, or even the phrase “reuse, reduce, recycle”?
Sustainability is a set of actions that aim to fulfill human needs while preserving the environment.
According to the United Nations, “sustainability” is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition has stood the test of time as organizations around the world strive to meet environmental sustainability goals to better the planet for the future.
Put simply, “environmental sustainability” is about consuming natural resources responsibly so we can keep our planet clean for the health and wellbeing of generations to come.
Why Is Environmental Sustainability Important?
Climate change, global warming, and the rise in greenhouse gases – the UN Environment Programme is calling this a “climate emergency.”
The cause? Human activity.
We live in a land of excess and waste, with factories producing items that get used just once and thrown away and fast fashion retailers that produce mass amounts of textile waste.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average global temperature on earth has been rising steadily since the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800’s. This global warming is caused by a high concentration of greenhouse gases, which are a result of burning fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gas levels have hit a record high: the total amounts recorded were 18% higher between 2015-2019 than in the previous 5 years. These greenhouse gases, primarily methane and carbon dioxide, contribute to the 1.5-degree increase in temperature every year. Continuing this trend will wreak havoc on natural ecosystems and leave lasting long term damage on wildlife.
In order to sustain the planet, we must strike a balance between how much we consume and how much we produce. If the amount of waste being produced exceeds the amount being recycled, we’re simply adding more garbage to the oceans and furthering the pollution. That’s why having a circular economy is an important goal to work towards.
circular economy: a sustainable economic system that aims to reduce waste by extracting as much value from Earth’s resources before disposing of them. This is done by reusing, repurposing, repairing, or recycling these products as much as possible before finally disposing of them. (Read more about it here: What is Circular Economy?)
Global Sustainability Goals
On a large scale, many countries have pledged to treaties and made goals to support a more sustainable lifestyle across the globe. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) monitors and keeps countries up to date on climate change goals in an effort to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system."
The most well-known treaty on climate change is the Paris Agreement, which was signed in 2015 and includes 196 countries. This was the first time so many countries had come together to work towards a common goal--to combat climate change. Each party pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions every year in order to limit the rate of global warming. The end goal? To achieve a climate-neutral planet by mid-century. According to the UNFCC, more and more countries are establishing carbon neutrality targets, this means that by 2030, zero-carbon solutions could be competitive in sectors representing over 70% of global emissions.
The UNFCCC advocates for sustainable development, putting the responsibility on developed countries to lead the way and fund climate change activities. As countries work towards goals of zero hunger and quality education, they must also prioritize finding clean, renewable energy sources, and ensure that production is done in a responsible manner. (Click to learn more about the UNFCCC’s Sustainable Development Goals.)
As a part of the Paris Agreement, Canada has put forth goals to reduce landfill waste, waterway pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. In Canada, about 3 million tonnes of plastic get sent to a landfill every year! Along with recycling, Canada is working towards zero plastic waste. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Canada aims to have 100% clean or renewable energy by 2030.
What are Canadians Doing to Promote Environmental Stewardship?
To date, many businesses have made eco-friendly switches in their stores, trading plastic products for paper, and sourcing materials from locally to cut down on packaging and transportation.
These small businesses provide more sustainable alternatives than buying mass-produced products from big-box stores. Shopping locally also helps to sustain the local economy and provide jobs within the community. Check out some Canadian companies that focus on sustainability!
An added bonus? Local businesses also tend to care more about their customers and provide better customer service.
What Actions Can I Take to Live More Sustainably?
Living a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, but there are simple steps you can take to offset and reduce your carbon footprint.The important thing is to work collectively towards a carbon neutral lifestyle.
One major way to combat climate change is to make more informed purchases. We’re all guilty of over consumption. Take time to think about what and how you purchase, invest in high quality products that will stand the test of time, this will ensure that you create less waste.
Reduce your energy consumption -- this can be as easy as turning off the lights or AC when you leave a room, or even washing your laundry on a cold cycle. Looking for more ways to save energy at home? Check out these easy, and creative solutions.
Ready to Support Environmental Sustainability?
The TerraDesk is an eco-friendly and carbon-neutral desk with a tabletop made entirely out of recycled chopsticks! ChopValue “harvests” used chopsticks from all over the Metro-Vancouver area, sanitizing, processing, and pressing them into beautiful wood desktops. The resulting material makes a desk stronger than oak and harder than maple.
The TerraDesk is complete with all the signature features you loved on our sit-stand office desks: buttery-smooth dual motors, sturdy legs, and an 8-year warranty. You also get the added satisfaction of having contributed to a circular economy, one step closer to living more sustainably!
Your TerraDesk will be sent to you in eco-friendly cardboard packaging, so be sure to check out these upcycling ideas before putting the box in the recycling bin.
Are you ready to join our mission to recycle 10 million chopsticks in 2021, and create a positive impact for environmental sustainability?