SustainabilityWhat’s sustainability mean to you?

The word sustainable gets thrown around a lot. It’s one of those buzzwords that gets attached to anything and everything. So, what does it really mean to be sustainable? Everyone has their own definition, including me.

Some people may use a very literal definition; to maintain a certain rate or level. Others might look at it from a business point of view; to run a sustainable business requires healthy margins to be profitable. Or, they could look at it from an environmental perspective; to fulfill our needs without depleting the Earth’s natural resources and compromising our future. I can definitely agree with all these definitions within these various contexts, but we often forget sustainability in a people context.

For a long time, I only understood sustainability from a somewhat superficial green lens. I decided to make a huge lifestyle change by living plastic-free and I picked up every eco-friendly marketed product I could find, so I could be an environmentalist. I followed all of social media’s popular zero waste living bloggers and took their word for it. They told me to “save the turtles” so I bought metal straws in place of plastic ones. Don’t get me wrong, the intentions behind some of those changes were great but I was not actually “saving the turtles”.

At the time, I wondered why everyone was not making these simple lifestyle changes to help the Earth since it was so easy. It did not occur to me that those lifestyle changes are not a possibility for everyone and that it is a privilege to live sustainably.

Unfortunately, sustainable choices are not always accessible to everyone. When they are available, they come with a hefty price tag. We live in a very industrialized society and sustainable living is impractical. That being the case, sustainable living has always been known to be an upper-class trend because they have the time and money to maintain that lifestyle.

Sustainability can not be a one-size-fits-all for people, nor is it realistic to expect that. People are diverse. We are of different races and ethnicities. We come from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. We have different lifestyles and experiences. Sustainability is not really sustainable if we forget about social equity. We must acknowledge those differences in order to be inclusive and to make a change.

Until we can make sustainable living accessible to everyone, I hope that my sustainable series can help guide you if you do not know where to start. Sustainability will look different for everyone; therefore, you must define it for yourself and what you feel comfortable with. So my question to you is, how do YOU define sustainable?

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