What is Sustainability?

Sustainable Systems Week 1


I think I’m possibly the least sustainable person I’ve ever met. I look at people who do their best for the environment, go to plant drives, reduce their carbon footprint and am always in awe. Of course, I try my best, but I still think on the sustainability scale I’m probably a 4 out of 10.

Now that I’ve thrown the word around, what is sustainability? Most people simply use it as a fancy synonym for eco friendly. But sustainability actually involves preventing the depletion of natural resources and preserving them in an efficient way. I think the biggest difference between sustainability and ‘environment friendly’ is that sustainability actually involves the environment. But it also involves two other important components, the economy and society. In fact, Environment, Economy and Society are the three pillars of Sustainability.

We discussed how the three pillars affect each other and how sustainability affects us in general.We then were reminded of the well known 3 R’s: Reduce,Reuse and Recycle.This triplet is something all of us have been hearing since school. But none of us ever took the time to analyze what these three words might actually mean with regard to saving our environment.Thus sparked a debate between Reuse and Recycle,and the fine line between them both.You see, Reuse means using an item in its original form,while recycle means bringing it back to raw material to make an entirely new product.But what about some clothing which was cut up to create something like a bag? Cutting up clothes would technically mean the fabric going to it’s ‘raw’ form,but this still does not qualify as recycling since there were no industry processes involved to turn the product into something else.Also, reusing items creatively is a way of saving resources and time,while recycling itself requires additional time and resources,sometimes also causing some pollution( better in the long term,of course).

For example,the shoe company Adidas has taken up the initiative of releasing a shoe line made of recycled plastic woven within the shoe fibers.The industrial set up for this must definitely cause some pollution,but it helps up cycle plastic and prevent landfill/soil pollution.

This video sheds light upon Adidas’ initiative regarding ocean plastic.

Next,we were asked to decide which one of the R’s was the most sensible and the most sustainable.In my opinion,the word ‘Reduce’ makes the most sense.’Reduce’ is something we can implement in our daily lives easily.

 In a straightforward way, this is because consuming fewer products will eradicate the need for them to be reused or recycled when we are done with them. Over time, it will even help reduce the number of energy and material-guzzling products that are produced at all.The best way to do this is to make deliberate, informed choices about what we are consuming, and to place an emphasis on social and mental well being over material wealth. Example:Switching off fans and lights when not necessary is an economically and environmentally sustainable practice.It reduces fossil fuel consumption,and also reduces expenditure.

Our assignment to show next class was to create a mind map of our daily routine,and including our most and least sustainable practices.

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