Sustainability is the most important theme of the generation, although its been around as an idea ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It is the based on the sobering fact that the planet’s natural resources are finite, and therefore we must determine ways in which to ensure our valuable resources are not squandered away. Sustainability is achieved through efforts to create and maintain measures which allow humans and nature to exist in harmony. Now, more than ever, we should strive to engage in sustainable practices by being aware of the environmental impacts of our activities. By encouraging others to do so, we can create caring communities across the world which recognize the long-term value of their efforts.
Our modern lifestyles require massive amounts of energy, especially in the United States. In fact, the United States is the most energy-hungry country in the world: we consume around 101,600 trillions of BTUs per year (three times its consumption in 1950), while producing only around 71,500 trillion BTUs. If everyone on the planet were to live like the average American…we would need four more Earths to have enough resources. This is a huge ecological footprint, and we must find ways in which we can reduce it. The American way of life is NOT sustainable. We have become so comfortable in our energy exploitation that we are ignorant to the fact that much of the rest of the world suffers the consequences.
Benefits of Sustainable Practices
1. Energy Savings
One of the main ways in which sustainability can actually be a tangible benefit is in the way in which we use energy. In these modern times we rely on so many different electronic instruments and devices that we would be devastated if there was no energy to power them – a realistic scenario. Think about all the different ways that you use energy throughout the day, from the moment you wake up and on into the night. All of these various electrical devices we have add up – the average American uses over 11,000 kiloWatt hours of electricity a year.
The numbers jump frighteningly when we factor in other ways that we use energy: gasoline for transportation, petroleum products for plastics, and natural gas for heating, for example. The end result is an average of 335.9 million BTUs per American per year. This is a sick amount when compared the the global average of 72.4 million BTUs.
Reducing this use directly effects energy costs, and using less energy means paying lower energy bills. Saving money is an excellent incentive for saving energy.
2. Saving the Environment
The biggest, and most important, effect of sustainability is strengthening the health of our planet. By using recycled and/or biodegradable materials and products, we reduce the occurence of deforestation (habitat loss for many animals), reduce the use and release of harmful chemicals into the environment, and increasing our own health by effecting a change through cleaner water and air. These benefits are wide and far-reaching, and benefit not only our local communities, but the entire population at large. Also, by buying recycled/biodegradable products, we are encouraging the demand for them, thereby encouraging companies to supply this demand for green products.
3. Stronger Communities
Sustainability cannot come about without the cooperation of neighbors, neighborhoods, communities, cities, and entire countries. This means that to acheive sustainability we have to communicate with each other, educating those who are unaware of the issues, and thereby strengthening our own social bonds and our bond with the planet. Stronger communities have common goals, and if that goal is sustainability, the benefits are infinite. Fun ways to encourage awareness is to organize highway or creek/stream/beach cleanups. Another great way is to organize a community garden, where everyone can grow their own vegetables and herbs to supplement their food resources and decrease the demand on imported food. Simply getting in touch with nature is the single most best way to lead people towards re-connecting with nature, and finding that urge within themselves to care for the environment and actually actively want to save it.
Encouraging others to do so can be easy simply by acting as a role model for green practices in your workplace, school, and even when hanging out with friends. Purchasing and using products which are produced in an environmentally-friendly manner is exemplary, and a chance to engage others in discussions regarding sustainability.
As the world’s top consumers of energy, it is vitally important that we, as Americans, set model examples for how to be sustainable. We can do this through funding the scientific development of new energy technologies. We can set up programs in third-world countries that educates about environmental problems. The best thing we can do is to make sure that our voices are heard by the people in charge – the government. Making sure that new legislations are put into place to protect vital habitats, conserving biodiversity, as these are things that once destroyed, can never be replaced. By getting active in politics, however small or large, we are encouraging others to join us so that together, as humanity, we can reverse the trend and hope for a healthier, cleaner, and greener planet.
This article was contributed to encourage sustainable practices and promote sustainability education.