What Is Sustainability, and Why Should You Care?

Whether you watch the news on TV or read it online, you’ve probably heard the word “sustainability” thrown around, usually in conversations about our world’s future. But what is sustainability, exactly?

Sustainability is the act of doing (or not doing!) what we can to ensure the survival of our natural environment, also known as good ol’ planet Earth. In order to improve sustainability, we need to focus on keeping our world in balance by way of preserving our natural resources — such as lakes, forests, and oceans — so that future generations can continue to live in harmony with our planet. Given that, by 2050, it’s predicted that there will be 9.6 billion people on this spinning rock of ours, sustainability efforts have become a very big deal.

Why Do We Need to Push for Sustainability?

Climate change, deforestation, and the individual carbon footprint of every person on this planet are all contributing to a concern that, if we don’t clean up our act and make efforts to preserve the world’s ecosystems and resources, the futures of our descendants will be in question.

An international group of scientific researchers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that unless we work on lowering our carbon emissions (those released by burning fossil fuels, among other sources), the temperature increases and strange, unseasonable weather we’ve been having will only continue to escalate, leading to negative side effects on our planet and its natural systems.

Produce and foods that rely on a weather cycle or certain temperatures will become unavailable, animals of all varieties of species could face extinction, and places once hospitable for humans will become hostile terrain. When taking a big-picture look at these trends, it’s easy to be alarmed. But it takes more than awareness to make a difference.

What You Can Do to Help

What is sustainability in your eyes? The beauty of this question is that it can be answered in so many ways, including:

  • Recycle to get the most out of each product you use.
  • Compost in order to return organic matter back to the earth and reduce the resources used to sort trash.
  • Support local farms, lowering your carbon footprint in the process.
  • Advocate for afforestation, which is the act of keeping land specifically for growing trees that help remove carbon dioxide from our air.
  • Walk, ride a bike, or take public transport on your commute to lower carbon emissions.
  • Encourage your politicians to take a positive stand for sustainability.
  • Find and learn about local movements focused on sustainability in your area.
  • Support companies and products that support sustainability efforts, such as Dignity Health and its mission to help limit investments in thermal coal energy.
  • Try out this carbon footprint calculator to discover ways to help reduce your environmental impact.

My husband and I are currently discussing starting a family. I know that I want my children to be born into a world that is still as healthy as the one in which I grew up. I don’t want the mistakes of past generations to damage their experience of the world — or worse. We as a species have the gift of forethought and science, and it’s past time that we use those gifts for a happier, healthier future.

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