According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), sustainability is based on a singular principle: “Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 committed the United States to sustainability, mandating that the nation “create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” Experts concede that even though the environment is often considered at the forefront of sustainability, true sustainability involves much more than environmental issues. It entails balancing social, economic, and environmental factors so that we are able to meet the requirements of the present generation, without depleting the resources of future generations.
Moreover, sustainability and sustainable development are often thought of as having three core components for businesses, which are often referred to as the “3 E’s of Sustainability”:
This part of the sustainability equation puts into question whether or not an activity is environmentally sustainable (and also viable) in the long run. It refers to the conservation of natural resources and the reduction of impacts on Earth. This pillar is focused on preserving the planet, conserving our precious resources, developing eco-friendly products, promoting quality water and air, and cutting back on waste and pollution. In this pillar, a “sustainable” business activity, would, for example, include a company transitioning to using electric vehicles for transporting its goods, one that’s powered by renewable electricity, or one that conducts its business activities in an energy-efficient building.
The “Economy” pillar questions whether or not an activity is economically sustainable and aimed at improving living standards in the future. This would involve numerous types of activities to boost the local economy and help create jobs.
This pillar focuses on protecting the health of all communities and educating/motivating communities to get involved in sustainability initiatives. This pillar is all about empowering and encouraging people to take action for their health and supporting Mother Nature.
While the concept of the 3 E’s was formulated for businesses, there are plenty of actions we can take in our own lives to play our part in contributing to a more sustainable future. For example:
1. Be more mindful of your energy usage
As you likely already know, electricity varies with the weather, as changes in temperature and humidity affect the need for heating and cooling. Homeowners and renters see the largest seasonal variance, largely because of air conditioning use in the summer and heating in the winter. There are plenty of simple lifestyle modifications or home upgrades you can make to ensure you’re being energy-conscious year-round, such as weather-stripping your home, upgrading to LED light bulbs, and leveraging a power strip to avoid energy vampires.
2. Choose sustainable modes of transportation
Did you know that a standard passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year? Luckily, there are plenty of great transportation alternatives you can use instead of driving a car alone, like walking, biking, or taking public transportation. By choosing more eco-conscious alternatives to driving, you won’t just save money on fuel and maintenance, reduce traffic congestion, and improve the air quality where you live, but you’ll also help improve the climate of the whole planet by reducing fuel emissions.
3. Shop for local and organic food when possible
Shopping locally can help cut down on the average 1,500 miles food travels from farm to fork. So, by purchasing food that’s grown or produced nearby, you’ll also help reduce the amount of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere. Additionally, organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy.
4. Motivate your friends and family to join you on your sustainability journey
Sharing is caring. So, if you’re truly passionate about making a change for our planet, then one of the best things you can do is share your Earth-loving knowledge and ways with your friends and family.
Now that you’re a little more familiar with what the 3 E’s of Sustainability are all about, you can see how you can apply some similar principles in your daily life. Living a sustainable lifestyle really comes down to giving your actions a little more thought and energy. Living a sustainable lifestyle is about living more simply and getting by with less. These are just a few ideas to help you get started on your sustainability journey.