Sustainability needs to be a collective goal
People use the word “sustainability” everywhere – in grocery stores, in banks, in convention centers, in clothing stores, and in countless other venues. But what does sustainability really mean? And why should we care about it?
There is no set-in-stone definition of sustainability. The term is subjective, and depends on whoever is trying to define it. Different fields use different meanings of sustainability, and no one is right or wrong.
The most common meaning is from the Brundtland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development created in 1987, when it was defined as: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
So, in other words, sustainability is known as providing for ourselves without sacrificing the needs of the people to come in the future. We need to keep a close eye on our consumption, making sure that we don’t permanently off-set our environment.
When sustainability is applied to a material, such as bamboo, it means that the resource is being maintained and is stable in its production. So, since bamboo grows rapidly, it can easily regenerate itself. Thus, the bamboo population is stable through our usage.
However, not every plant or natural resource is sustainable.
Most trees take too long to grow to be considered sustainable. The way our world fishes is highly unsustainable, and many underwater species are at risk of extinction. Some even consider water to be an unsustainable resource because we are using more clean water than produced.
Using these resources at alarming rates will eventually deplete them down to nothing. Losing these resources will have a devastating effect on our world. But, sadly, this is the path we are going down with our consumption.
We are definitely not living sustainably as a whole. We are slowly going downhill, and future generations will take the fall for it. We are consuming uncontrollably, and only growing larger in population.
According to the World Population Balance, we are already two or three times past the sustainable level. We are an exceedingly far away from meeting our sustainable goal, and our current consumption rates are setting our future generations up for failure.
With the 7 billion people in our world, we are using 50 percent more than our planet can sustain. Meaning, Earth can’t keep up with our high demands. And, as our population increases, our resource use increases and we remain more and more unsustainable.
Sustainability is a focus in many different fields including economic, human, social, and environmental. All are important, and work together, to create an entirely sustainable world. However, we won’t achieve as much as possible if we try to tackle every part at once. We need to pick somewhere to start.
Environmental sustainability is the building block of the other types. Without environmental sustainability, we will eventually lose most of our materials and food sources. Many species – including humans – may become extinct. Though that may seem to be in the very distant future, there is no reason for us not to plan ahead to make sure it never happens.
To sustainably live, we need to try to use as little resources as possible to reduce our impact on the environment. This leaves our planet in stable condition to provide for many generations to come. This also helps animals remain healthy and ecosystems continue thriving.
Businesses, especially restaurants, are the biggest culprits in harming the environment. Most of this hurt isn’t intentional, but it is overlooked. Many turn their heads with the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality and don’t realize how much they are affecting our ecosystems.
Now is the time to focus on achieving environmental sustainability. The more helping hands, the better – and we need all the help we can get. There are plenty of ways to ensure that your business, whether it be a catering business, restaurant, food truck, or hotel, is as sustainable as possible. Follow these few tips to achieve sustainable goals:
- Install ENERGYSTAR® appliances: These appliances are specially designed and certified to reduce energy use. Many different appliances come ENERGYSTAR® certified, so be sure to look at the label. This equipment not only reduces your use of energy, but it also reduces your energy bill.
- Use locally–sourced meats and vegetables: Although meat isn’t considered sustainable, it’s hard to avoid in the food industry. However, buying meat from local farms is eco-friendlier than buying from commercial resources. Buying locally-grown produce ensures higher quality and more sustainable for your business and community. Also, try to use seasonal vegetables and fruits – that reduces the amount of energy used to grow produce outside of its normal season. Some restaurants even use hyper-local produce by growing it themselves!
- Try composting or donating: Reducing waste is a huge way to ensure sustainability. The easiest way to reduce restaurant waste is to compost leftover food or donate food that is still good quality. This supports the world by re-using food, instead of just letting it rot in landfills.
- Find ways to access clean energy: Clean energy is another way to be more sustainable. Instead of using gas or other harsh energy that pollutes our air, try using wind energy or solar energy.
- Pay attention to the products you use: Don’t use Styrofoam, because it does not decompose for hundreds of years. These products take up space in landfills and are also littered on streets and in waterways. Instead, switch to a biodegradable and organic material, such as bamboo, wood, or paper. If none of those meet your expectations, then use a recyclable plastic. Or even go greener and use reusable tableware, such as glass, porcelain, or metal.
Sustainability needs to be approached when considering the long-term. Is society balanced enough to sustain ourselves for centuries? The harsh answer is no, we are not. But we can work together to become a sustainable world.
If every business and individual took specific steps to become more sustainable, then our world would be on a better track. And you have the power to help Earth become more sustainable.