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Decoding Environmental Sustainability

Decoding Environmental Sustainability

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children

Native American Proverb


Environmental sustainability is the responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect global ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future. Per the UN Environment Programme, environmental sustainability connects life choices that ensure an equal, if not better, way of life for future generations. In simple terms, it is the practice of interacting with the planet responsibly, and by so doing, avoiding depletion of natural resources and compromising the future generation`s ability to meet their daily needs.

Environmental sustainability aims to improve the quality of life without putting unnecessary strain on the earth`s supporting ecosystems. It’s about creating an equilibrium between materialistic human culture and the living world. We can do this by living in a way that doesn’t waste or unnecessarily deplete natural resources. Because so many decisions that impact the environment are not felt immediately, a key element of environmental sustainability is its forward-looking nature.

The three pillars of sustainability

Apart from benefitting the planet and its inhabitants, environmental sustainability offers plenty of other unmatched benefits. The three pillars of sustainability involve economic, social, and environmental development.

Economic sustainability

Businesses and communities have the responsibility of ensuring economic sustainability. Here, they are encouraged to use their resources responsibly and efficiently. Economic sustainability is crafted to support long-term economic growth without harming the environmental, social, and cultural aspects of our global community.

Social sustainability

This is about benefits for the people in enormous ways. Sustainably living as individuals, families, communities and countries, means healthier and quality air, with less money spent on healthcare needlessly. Using renewable energy sources can reduce droughts, as they require less water and energy to maintain. The eventual goal is that sustainable development will also reduce hunger and poverty, and generally provide a better global quality of life, promoting fairly distributed education and healthcare.

Environmental sustainability

This is primarily about the state of the planet. It encourages individuals to live in a way that creates minimal waste and even regenerates some of the resources used each day.

Barriers involved with environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability offers clear benefits for human health but there are barriers to achieving sustainability.

Population explosion, unsustainable consumption, and production patterns among the rich are the primary social challenges to achieving global sustainable development. Unless we see a significant change in global human behaviour, sustainability will not be possible. Other social hurdles include limited awareness and education about sustainability, insufficient interaction between civil society and the government, and inadequate incentives for the private sector to encourage sustainable development.

Economists have observed that sustainable development focuses on economic growth rather than people’s health or rights. For environmental sustainability to work globally, our worldview must shift, as we currently treat the environment as part of the economy rather than the other way around. This change means the economy must be adapted so that environmental services are maintained. This process is easier said than done, and it will likely take decades for a shift to begin taking place.

The need for environmental sustainability

When we feel fatigued or out of touch, many of us instinctively go for walks. We search for forests, parks, beaches, and country roads to feel more at peace and connected to nature. We try to move out of our confines to remote places to enjoy nature or have some rest. Given that fact, it’s no surprise that human well-being is intrinsically linked to the health of the environment. 

About 24% of global human deaths are caused directly or indirectly by avoidable environmental factors. To live long and healthy lives, we need and deserve unpolluted air to breathe, clean water to drink, and to live in places free of toxic substances.

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As the global population grows and we begin to experience the long-term consequences of excessive energy use and industrial growth, we must prevent further damage. It is our job to ensure our future generations have healthy places to live and minimize our damage to the earth’s biodiverse ecosystems. For businesses, sustainability means running a business through sustainable practices and securing future growth potential without causing too much damage to the environment.

The overall goal is to make life beneficial for all. Environmental sustainability provides huge benefits for human health and that of all other species. It greatly reduces our global carbon footprint and our reliance on fossil fuels.

Sustainability can increase life expectancy by providing healthier living conditions and better healthcare, which could also lessen the divide between the rich and the poor. Sustainable development encourages more responsible manufacturing and production, covering the industrial side of waste and pollution. It also encourages companies, industries, and governments to make decisions based on long-term consequences, rather than taking the easiest, cheapest option.

Benefits of environmental sustainability

The enormous benefits include but not limited to:

  • We can protect ecosystems
  • We can continue to enjoy nature as it is
  • We can protect endangered species
  • Less pollution in the cities results in better respiratory health for all
  • It could halt or reverse the effects of global warming
  • We won`t be creating huge landfills all over the world that will take hundreds of years to break down

For businesses:

  • You reduce your energy usage and therefore save money
  • You produce less waste, which can help you save money and will make you a better choice for eco-conscious customers
  • You can position yourself as a preferred option for environmentally conscious customers by reducing your pollution output, which can also qualify you for incentives and cost savings in certain areas
  • Improve your brand image
  • Attract and keep better-quality investors, employees, and shareholders
  • You can rest easy at night knowing you are not damaging the planet for future generations


We may encounter some obstacles in our efforts to achieve environmental sustainability, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do our best. The idea of living sustainably can feel daunting, but there are plenty of small changes we can make without much inconvenience.


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