What is Sustainability? (& the myths that come with it)

Sustainability has become somewhat of a hot topic recently and there are many ideas regarding what exactly it is and how one can achieve it in their life. Having misinformation about what sustainability is, can be problematic because it blurs the lines between what is and what isn’t true and can prevent progress for the movement as a whole.

As a platform that looks to educate and help people in achieving a more sustainable lifestyle, we believe that it is our job to debunk the myths surrounding sustainability and get people on the right track towards understanding, then living and breathing all things sustainable.

What does Sustainability actually mean?

According to the United Nations, “Sustainability” is defined by “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition is a great point to refer back to when considering sustainability because it emphasizes the interconnectivity of not only people and their environment, but the future of both. 

To a lot of people though, sustainability is all about the environment. But it is in fact the combination of environment, the economy and all of our human activity because it is intersectional. In order to achieve overall sustainability, we need to have a sustainable climate, sustainable economy and sustainable political system that work with one another to perpetuate sustainability on a grander scale. 

I believe that sustainability is possible for everyone despite income, opportunity or their position in society. It doesn’t have to be a matter of who can afford it or solely because of the privilege you have been given to achieve it.

A sustainable future for all, could rely on two things: education & a change in personal philosophy.

  • First, it’s fundamental that people be educated on why sustainability matters, what will happen to the world if nothing changes and give them tangible solutions to the problems at hand that will change their lives in a beneficial way.
  • Second, it’s essential that people connect to sustainability based on emotion. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people never truly understand an issue until they can connect to it personally. So arguably the most challenging aspect of the sustainability movement is to make people really care about it not necessarily for themselves but for the generations to come. 

Sustainability Myths

Now that we have addressed how sustainability can be defined, we want to explore the common myths and misconceptions regarding why sustainability is hard to achieve...

  • Sustainability is too expensive 

When it comes to the basics, sustainability is not expensive; the earth really does provide us with all that we need.

But when it comes to “mainstream” needs & making more sustainable purchases in an effort to live a green lifestyle (which is another issue in & of itself) oftentimes has a higher cost up-front. To produce eco-friendly, quality products is more costly. This is typically because they are produced with natural materials (that are made to last), the people who make them are being paid a living wage (if not more), and they likely offer a longer lifespan and can be reused & repurposed. So yes, to purchase an organic/natural product will likely cost a little bit more but it’s because more effort has gone into making sure that it hits every sustainability nail on the head. 

Also, the high price on mainstream sustainability products currently, can be blamed on major brands who have taken the “hot topic” of the moment and used it to “save-face” and appease consumer behaviour. We're talking about the sudden shift in brand behaviour that is suddenly focussed on sustainability as one of their core values. This has allowed for many companies (in all realms of the consumer world) to market to their consumers as “sustainable” but in reality are guilty of “greenwashing”. 

To “greenwash” means to convey an impression that your products are more environmentally sound & that your overall system works in a way that values equality, etc. It’s an incredibly deceiving marketing tactic that many consumers fall victim to, especially now because many don’t yet investigate the brands they are buying from to see if their claims hold truth. 

So as sustainability becomes more and more important to consumers, the more important it becomes for consumers to evolve and become more environmentally conscious, be critical of brand philosophies and be able to differentiate between truth & greenwashing. 

  • Sustainability is as simple as following the basics of recycling 

While sustainability does focus on the environment and the purpose of the three R’s remains relevant, your perception of the systems that we live in which perpetuate non-sustainable behaviour is just as (if not more) important. 

A common misconception about sustainability is that it’s as simple as following the basic steps of going “green”. As previously mentioned, sustainability is much more than just recycling more and using single-use plastics less. Sustainability is intersectional and involves aspects of environment, economy and in our opinion personal philosophy. In the case of “going green”, the purpose of sustainability would not only be to practice recycling more, but to address the larger plastic waste problem, remain critical of it and to change your behaviour accordingly. 

  •  Sustainability will take too much work 

The idea that you can rush the process of creating something worthwhile is intrinsically flawed; Rome wasn’t built in a day after all. With that being said, we seriously have to change our minds when it comes to “effort” and work on becoming more patient. Yes, sustainability will take time and work, especially when it comes to adjusting one's lifestyle and to become a more conscious individual. But it most definitely will not take “too much work” or so much that it isn’t worth it because the reality is that the goal of sustainability is always worth the work. 

At the end of the day, sustainable living means hard work and involves making an effort to change both mindset & behaviour. Once you have changed your mind about how quickly you want things and begin to question how your decisions impact the world around you, the more critical you will be of the systems that work against your goals and you will become more successful on your journey towards sustainability overall.

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