Understanding Sustainability Series: The Basics

I am pretty sure we are all familiar with the word of the day – Sustainability. We have used it at one time or the other to describe the potential of a certain thing – income, activity, and business to last a long while.  In recent times, when I mention sustainability, most people around me automatically think I am referring to environmental sustainability alone. I was at a program some weeks back with the theme; Energy for Sustainable Economic Growth: Options for Nigeria and the keynote speaker talked about decentralizing power generation by allowing regions to use their available resources to generate power. He mentioned water, gas, wind and coal. Yes coal. I just thought to myself that this was just what I wrote about some days ago. He was thinking about the business aspect alone. Everyone, by now knows that coal is not cool for us as it is a fossil fuel (I would discuss this in another post) and when it undergoes combustion, releases carbon dioxide.

So for a community with abundant coal, they would enjoy electricity at the expense of the environment and health of the people – this would not last for a long time, hence it’s not sustainable.

Let’s get a bit techy.

The definition of sustainable development according to the Brundtland Commission is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet theirs”.

However, the UK government revised this definition by going a bit further to explain the needs of the present.  Sustainable development was defined as “making the necessary decisions now to realise our vision of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit (profit), maximising wellbeing (people) and protecting our environment (planet), without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same”.

The latter definition highlighted the need to address the three Ps – people, planet and profit. This is true sustainability. Every form of activity, be it business related or for pleasure has an impact on this aspects. If we want to be able to do the things we love and also not deprive our children and theirs the ability to do same, we need to be conscious about the mentioned aspects.

People

Activities are carried out by people and most times for the benefit of people. Simply put, activities should be carried out in manners that would have positive impacts on people – workers, employees, employers, communities and the world at large. An example is the landfills. Ideally, landfills are designed and located in places with no residential facilities as the operations would negatively impact human life as a result of the odour and heavy vehicular traffic.

Planet

This has been trending in recent times as the resultant effects of industrialization are beginning to tell heavily. We now have extreme weather patterns, climate change, ozone layer depletion, global warming, flooding, oil exploration, gas flaring, deforestation and bush burning. These activities have detrimental effects on the environment and living entities. The environment is our support system as we rely heavily on the environment for our livelihood. How then do we expect it to continue to serve us optimally if we continue to treat it with so much levity? We maintain our cars, machines and other things that make living easy but we ignore the environment….not cool.

Profit

This has been the baseline of most activities. Everyone is in business to make money. It’s not bad but it should not be at the expense of the other two aspects because to achieve long term goals, the three have to work together. This is what is referred to as the Triple Bottom Line.

So how do we come in as individuals?

The beauty of it all is that little acts count. As little as deciding to reduce waste, prevent littering, turning off unused light bulbs and electric appliances, walking when you can, using energy saving bulbs, line drying (I can’t tell you to hand wash all the time) and the list seems endless. The point is to live as lightly as you can so that our kids can have a conducive haven to grow and live in.

Cheers to a greener environment

Yours Sustainably,

One Greenie Mom

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