In one sense, it is development that meets the current needs without sacrificing the needs of the future. Notice this is needs based, wants are secondary. In a more expanded view, it is the integration of environmental health, social equity and economic energy in order to create healthy, prosperous, diverse and resilient communities for this generation and those to follow. This larger application of sustainability acknowledges the interconnectedness of these separate issues and the necessity of a systems approach and acknowledges the complexity of the issue.
What All That Means?
That on a systems level we need politicians and foward thinking business leaders to fuel the momentum of the sustainability movement. But, we also need a society willing to hold politicians and business leaders accountable. Politicians will not act without voters forcing the issue and backing candidates that make sustainability the centerpiece of their campaign and, business leaders will not change their business practices unless and until their bottom line is threatened. In effect, society holds the keys to the sustainability movement becoming a mainstream movement, becoming a tidal wave that sweeps the world over, thus saving the planet.
Yet, I am hardly naive enough to believe what needs to happen can happen in a short enough amount of time. Unfortunately, people are driven by rewards or by a sense that what they are currently doing will directly benefit them. With sustainability the largest benefits will be in a future long past most peoples lifetime. Committing to a stainable lifestyle is a selfless act for most.
What Can the Individual Do?
For starters, the individual can support businesses that focus on creating sustainably sourced products or services. Also, helping businesses like Striver which help make finding sustainably based companies and products readily available to all. The more success businesses have the more pressure business leaders can exert on politicians. It can become a self-fulfilling circle; consumers affect businesses and business leaders affect politicians. It will take time, but it starts with the individual.
More immediate/direct impact things the individual can do-
Start a garden, grow as many and as much of your own food as possible. Learn how to can or preserve food for long-term storage.
Create your own compost for the food garden. Coffee grounds and filters, vegetable matter, dryer lint, etc… can all be composted. It need not be anything complicated, I made a compost bin out of a thrash can. Composting is good for the environment, it keeps vegetable matter out of landfills where it creates harmful methane. You will also have the benefit of improving the health of your soil.
Avoid single use items (paper towels, paper plates, sanitary wipes, K-cups, etc…) and if do uses these items compost as much of it as you can, even K-cups can be recycled and the coffee grounds composted.
Reduce utility usage- cut water, electric and heat as much as you comfortably can.
Electric vehicle or try finding alternative forms of transportation. I took a job closer to home so I could either walk or ride my bike to work.
And so much more!!! Please leave things you do to support sustainability in the comments below.