The term Sustainable is a popular one and its popularity is rising. But what exactly is it? And what does sustainable living actually mean?
The term "sustainable" can be interpreted in several different ways, but there are a few core principles that most people seem to agree on. In this article I explain the meaning of sustainability and the rise of sustainable living. And why it is a good thing, as well as a risk.
The meaning of Sustainability
Sustainability is a word that originates from the word "sustainable". Sustainable is an adjective for something that can be sustained at a certain level, or that is “capable of continuation at a certain level for a longer period of time". So it's all about the long-term, possibly spanning generations or even centuries. And combining that with the real requirements of today.
Synonyms for the word sustainable
There are many other words that are often used as synonyms for sustainable, although they are certainly not exactly the same. Examples of these similar but not the same words are ecological, climate friendly and green. Other synonyms are environmentally-friendly, non-polluting, organic, energy-saving. Again, these words are either (mis) used as synonyms or used in the same sentence together with sustainable. In this post I will focus on the last only. The exact meaning of the other words like "eco friendly" will be covered in another article.
Sustainability is a balancing act
Sustainable living means you are trying to satisfy today's needs while you make concrete efforts to not compromise the capacity for future generations. You're guaranteeing the balance between care for the environment, economic growth and social well-being. You could even say that you do not take or consume more than you objectively need and with that choice you make sure that others who come after you have the same.
So, when you say you try to live sustainably it means you're trying to be mindful of many aspects more than just your own needs. You look at the bigger picture and a broader perspective. Sustainable living means that you live your live in such a way that future generations do not have to pay the bill. It is about how much natural resources you use. And how much waste you leave. Single use plastics, for instance, are not sustainable. No matter how you explain it.
When you read this description of Sustainable Living it is logical that you think about environment. Because if there is one thing long-term, affecting different generations, it is that. And that's why the word sustainable is often used synonymously with perhaps related, but bifferent terms like eco-friendly, preserving nature, recycling.
Is Sustainability living an ambiguous term?
In a recent conversation about the topic someone argued that the term is so popular and "in fashion" because the meaning is ambiguous. You can claim to be "sustainable" but no one will actually be able to check your claim. You can say your products are sustainable but there is no official standard.
And is that a problem?
I believe it is not a problem. The more "low threshold" the concept is, the more it will grow in popularity. More people jump on the sustainable boat and spead the message. Whether or not everyone has exactly the same definition in mind is in that respect not important. As long as the message "sustainability is important for this and future generations" sticks. With the risk that it becomes a new norm.
However, there is one big potential problem with this way of looking at it.
Devaluating the term
The one big risk is that the term sustainable becomes a hollow term, devoid of its original meaning. In the 90s this happened with the term "green". This word was taken hostage by big brands that tried to piggypack and ride the "green wave". Air lines and oil companies started to use the word in their extensive marketing collateral, explaining how their "green" activities somehow fully negated their environmental impact. The result is that if you want to make a point and use the term green, you now need to do some additional explanation, or else people will immediately associate it with other words like "green washing" and window dressing.
Sustainability as a conscious choice
As with everything I would argue it is important to not claim you're sustainable, but show it by clear actions. Be genuine and make your own conscious decisions. It's not about rules and guidelines, but common sense. do you have to buy something packaged in several layers of throwaway plastic or are there some eco-friendly alternatives? Do you need to eat meat everyday or are there more sustainable alternatives that you can vary with? It is and should be your own conscious choice.
These are just my thoughts on the topic. I would love to hear yours. As always you can respond and give your opinions in the comments!
At BEINGBAR we walk the talk. Our journey started in 2011 and we set out to make sustainable fashion accessories and eyewear. It's the core pillar of what we do. Unlike big companies we didn't just carefully change one production line to "see how the market responds" or have a requirement to "launch at current profit levels". We had an idea about how to do things better and as a team we simply made it happen. And since that moment we work everyday to make it better.
Most of our eyewear is made with fastgrowing bamboo elements and we avoid the use of plastics at all cost in products, production and logisics. And more importantly, we make sure or products are built to last, not to replace.
So, this concludes this article about the rise of sustainable living and sustainabily. Are you interested in reading more about eco-friendly high quality sunglasses? And more specifically in shades that take a different approach. BEINGBAR shades are the ultimate conscious and sustainable sunglasses, made with natural materials. For people who make their own conscious choices. Click here to read more. Or visit BEINGBAR.com