What is environmental sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is talked about in relation to all aspects of our lives – from creating eco homes and environmentally conscious communities to sourcing sustainable food, renewable energy, low impact furniture and clothing. But what does environmental sustainability actually mean? There are many definitions in use by green groups, business and politicians – some simple and some more complex. The concept of sustainable development was first put forward in the 1987 report ‘Our Common Future’ – prepared for the World Commission on Environment and Development. They recognized the links between inequality, poverty and environmental degradation and were seeking a way forward for a fairer world with less damage to the environment that supports communities. Our Common Future, or the Bruntland Report, as it is also known in reference to its author, established the concept of sustainable development as the way forward for a fairer society, which looks after its resources. The report defined sustainable development as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It therefore follows that environmental sustainability is ensuring that in meeting our needs for water, food, shelter as well as engaging in activities that make our lives enjoyable – including leisure activities and entertainment – we don’t cause damage to our environment or deplete resources that we can’t renew.
Why do we need sustainable practices?
While many individuals and communities have long recognised the damage that can be caused to our environment and that of the plants and animals we share our planet with, it is only relatively recently this has been acknowledged globally. The air we breathe and our rivers and oceans don’t recognize local, national or even continental boundaries – so we must all take care of them for each other. For example, air pollution episodes in the UK are often made worse by air masses from the continent of Europe, litter lasts decades in oceans travelling the globe on ocean currents and industrial pollution and fertilzers have led to toxic algal blooms in the rivers and seas including those of China, the US and Europe.
Looking after our environment is something we must all be a part of. There are many environmental projects promoting sustainable living – large and small, local, national and global – that we can participate in. Looking after environmental health is crucial to ensuring we, and future generations, can all go green and can live healthy lives on a healthy planet. Our individual or household environmental projects can include carrying out our own environmental impact assessment to ensure we use energy and water efficiently and make sure our food, furniture and clothing is from sustainable sources. To help make a difference to others in our own and our global community, there are numerous projects underway, which range from campaigns to for clean seas and beaches, to educating children about sustainable living and empowering women to support their communities and combat the impacts of climate change.
Many projects promoting environmental sustainability are here, on our Sustainable World Map – where you can explore environmental ideas and initiatives, or add your own eco project to inspire people in your own community and around the world.