What does sustainability mean?
Simply put, sustainability is the factor we look for in order for something to go on existing forever. It impacts on social activities and institutions as well as healthcare matters. Sustainability is, of course, a big subject within the field of environmentalism. This is because so many economic activities of humans have put the sustainability of the whole world in jeopardy, according to the latest climate change science. Many now see the social and ecological aspects of sustainable living starting to converge, as more and more human activity is measured according to its sustainability rather than its economic reward alone.
Why does sustainability matter?
Without the ability to live in a sustainable manner, life would no longer exist. If you assume that there are finite resources on the planet, then simply using them all up means that they can no longer be called upon in future. However, sustainable use of them means being able to continue so doing. In short, if the human race is not behaving in a sustainable manner, either socially with one another or in terms of the farming of natural resources, then it is slowly but surely killing itself.
How can sustainability be measured?
There are several quantitative methodologies for measuring the sustainability, or otherwise, of a practice or project. Nearly all work on a similar principle, that of recording the environmental and social impacts and measuring them against their rewards which will use include an economic benefit. To some, however, only looking at the environmental aspects of sustainability are what counts at this time given the climate change emergency that several governments around the world have declared. Under the United Nations definition of sustainability measurement, there are over 140 indicators to look into that range from air quality to water poverty.
How does sustainability work?
In order for something to be truly sustainable, it must have zero impact on the environment or people. Therefore, you could consider an economy which grows crops for food without needing fertilisers derived from another resource, such as fossil fuels, to be operating sustainably. However, only so long as the soil replenishes itself naturally for new crops to be grown once they have been harvested without a loss of performance. In architecture, sustainability often works by designing buildings which have no requirement to be heated, lit or cooled, so they are sustainable in the long term. The use of replenishable materials is a similar factor in the sustainability of manufactured products.
How can I achieve my own sustainability goals?
For individuals who wish to live more sustainably, lowering their overall level of consumption, especially in wealthy, Western countries, is a good first step. Only using resources at a minimal level, such as showering rather than drawing a bath, is another good measure. Walking or using public transport rather than driving a fossil fuel-driven car is advisable as is eating less meat and recycling more.