Environmental sustainability has become one of the most common phrases in discussions about climate change. The importance of environmental sustainability can have a significant impact in the fight against the climate crisis. However, many people aren’t clear on what it is or what practical steps to take as individuals or as a company.
What is Environmental Sustainability and Why Is It Important?
Even if you are committed to the fight against climate change, you may be unsure of the answer to “what is environmental sustainability?” The standard definition of environmental sustainability equates to environmentally sustainable development, but what does that mean on a practical level? It means there must be a balanced relationship between the natural resources available to us and the human consumption of those resources:
- For renewable resources like crops or timber, the rate of harvest shouldn’t exceed the rate of regeneration. This is known as “sustainable yield.”
- For non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, the rate of depletion shouldn’t exceed the rate of development of renewable alternatives like solar or wind power.
- For pollution, the rates of waste generation shouldn’t exceed the capacity of the environment to assimilate that waste. This is known as “sustainable waste disposal.”
In short, environmental sustainability states that the rates of renewable resource harvest, non-renewable resource depletion, and pollution assimilation can be naturally maintained indefinitely. The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development goes further, defining environmental sustainability as behaving today in a way that ensures that future generations will have enough natural resources to maintain a quality of life equal to if not better than that of current generations.
Achieving a balance between natural resources and human consumption that is both respectful of the natural world yet fuels our modern way of life, is one of the most important pieces in the climate-change puzzle. With unchecked resource depletion, we risk a global food crisis, energy crisis, and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that will lead to a global warming crisis. On the other hand, with too many restrictions on the use of natural resources, we risk slowing technological and economic advancement.
For the future of our planet and the humans who populate it, it’s vital to weigh the competing needs of environmental protection and human development so both the natural world and society are able to flourish. Striking this delicate balance is challenging—though not impossible—and issues surrounding sustainability, the environment, and society have been the focus of scientists, philosophers, politicians, and policy experts for decades.
Environmental Sustainability Issues
Achieving environmental and economic sustainability is not without challenge. There are a number of issues surrounding this delicate balance between preserving our ecosystem while guaranteeing a high quality of life.
Most experts talk about the “three pillars of sustainability” as a means of achieving and maintaining complete sustainability:
- Environmental protection: conserving ecosystems, air quality, integrity, and sustainability of our resources to provide a clean and healthy environment.
- Economic development: providing a satisfactory level of economic well-being today while not compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy the same financial benefits.
- Social development: providing access to basic resources to ensure a high level of social fulfillment, including the end to poverty and hunger, better standards of education and healthcare, and improved sanitation and water quality.
When all three pillars are solid, the needs of both the planet and human society are being met in a way that guarantees the survival of both. That said, of the three pillars, the first tier is environmental sustainability, as social and economic sustainability is ultimately dependent upon a clean and healthy environment.
How to Practice Environmental Sustainability
Environmental sustainability is not an impossible goal if we come together as individuals and businesses now. A few environmental sustainability examples that can be put into practice today include protecting renewable resources by supporting and advancing sustainable farming, planting home gardens to grow what you eat and buying from local farmers and producers, and purchasing carbon offsets to support reforestation and other regenerative projects; avoiding the consumption of fossil fuels by using renewable energy alternatives; and limiting pollution by composting and supporting clean air and water initiatives.
What the Future Looks Like If We Don’t Act Now
Without taking decisive actions towards achieving environmental sustainability in the present, the health and wellbeing of future generations will be dramatically compromised. Food supply will become unreliable as intensive farming affects the fertility of the land and the capacity of the water supply. Global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will amplify the effects of climate change, causing severe weather, floods, and droughts, and changes in growing seasons that will cause social upheaval. Polluted land, air, and water will severely affect our quality of life and the ability of local communities and the larger society to thrive. In short, environmental sustainability is fundamental to the survival of our planet and ourselves.
Learn more about Environmental Sustainability with Cool Effect
For more information about environmentally sustainable practices and how to become climate neutral, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. Cool Effect can provide practical steps you can take to promote environmental sustainability.