Frequently Asked Sustainability Questions Answered
“How can we do what we do in more sustainable ways?” is a big piece of climate change challenge puzzle. We are all involved in the move to become more sustainable, but it is challenging to understand how to achieve it. So, we collected common questions and quick answers for you.
Understanding climate change and sustainability is not optional anymore. Schools have started education around these topics, laws are changing, and our individual lifestyle will be impacted. No matter who you are, we all consume resources on the planet to live every day. “One of about 8 billion people in the world” may not sound like you are responsible for making a change, but your every action is still very important.
General Sustainability Questions
What is sustainability?
To be sustainable, it must be able to continue infinitely. The main goal of sustainability is to keep natural resources available to our future generations. We need to be aware that all resources are limited, and it takes years the nature to regenerate. The way we currently use natural resources is not sustainable because we are taking these resources faster than they can regenerate.
For example, collecting and recycling old timber to create new products is a sustainable way. On the other hands, cutting down trees faster than trees can regrow is not sustainable because we will cut all trees eventually and cannot continue anymore.
Another good example is our energy sources. We have been using fossil fuels such as coals and crude oil. These are made from dead cells in a process took millions of years underground. We are using it in a very short period very quickly and this is not sustainable. A sustainable solution to generate energy is to use renewable resources such as solar, wind, water flow, and geothermal energies. These natural and infinite energy sources are called “Green Energy” which don’t cause harm to others.
3 Pillars of sustainability
Sustainability has a lot more than just saving natural resources and reducing waste. When we talk about sustainable solutions, we need to include not only environmental impact, but also economic and social impact as well.
For example, a beverage manufacture thinks empty plastic bottles are recyclable and a sustainable solution. But to make recyclable plastic bottles sustainable, people need to dispose of them correctly and there must be enough recycling facilities. Then, why only 10% of recyclable plastics get recycled? Even though all of us agree that plastics should be recycled, recycling facilities need to make profit, and someone wants to work in a recycling facility. The reality is virgin plastics are still cheap and recycling plastics isn’t very attractive to businesses. And working environment and the incentives need to be more attractive enough so that people are willing to work in a recycling facility.
In a larger scale, climate change is not a local issue, but it is a global issue. Greenhouse emissions from a tropical country could cause ice melting in Antarctica. So, the sustainability solution in your country should include consideration to people and environment in other places.
Is being sustainable difficult?
There are some actions you can take today as an individual, but it is not always easy. When you think about your daily routine, it is made up with what you can change easily and not so easily. For example, you can start reducing electricity usage by turning off electric devices more often but changing your energy source to renewable may be not under your control.
Overall, sustainability practices are still very new to most people and businesses and available products and services are still limited. Sustainable options could be more expensive when you purchase them because sustainable production processes are not well developed yet. But, when we look at how much each product actually cost in its entire lifecycle, many of them such as plastic cost 10 times more than the price you pay in a store. You are paying 90% of the real cost as tax, service fee, or medical fee.
Sustainable Lifestyle Questions
What can I do to be more sustainable without extra costs?
We don’t need to change everything in our life to be more sustainable. In fact, just reducing your consumption of each item you use every day is the easiest and quickest.
Generally, the biggest portion of greenhouse gas emissions come from energy usage and transportation. This means you could reduce your carbon emissions a lot by turning off electric devices and lights more often and driving a car less often. Also, try using less hot water because hot water system is the biggest energy user in average homes.
Here’re more suggestions…
- Use public transport, ride a bike, or walk rather than driving a car
- Use cold water to wash laundry
- Prepare a shopping list before walking into a store and avoid buying thins you may not use
- When you purchase new items, choose reusable ones, and use them again and again
- Compost food and garden waste
- Try repairing rather than buying new
- Buy secondhand items
- Choose locally produced products
- Support the system at your local place to recycle as much as possible
- Try eating less meat and fish
- Change your energy provider to who sources from renewables
How can I contribute to the sustainability movement?
Outside your daily routine, there are still a few things you can do. You may not have noticed that banks have a power to speed up the transition. They invest a lot of money to businesses and fossil fuels producers are still their big customers. You can check bank’s sustainability policies and choose the one who is committed. Or you could ask them to invest your money to the industry sector that is working on sustainability solutions.
In your community, you will be surprised how much you can influence others around you by…
- Bringing your own refill cup when going to a café with your colleagues
- Discussing more sustainable office environment at your workplace
- Sharing a car with your friends to reduce your carbon footprint
- Sharing your garden produces with your neighbors
- Say no to free marketing items that you don’t really need or extra fancy packages in a shopping center
People who didn’t know about sustainability can learn what they can do from you.
Sustainability Development Questions
Why is corporate sustainability important?
Sustainability is now necessity than an option for businesses. Corporate sustainability is a strategy to deliver goods and services in a way both environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial for a long term. It ensures that the corporate uses natural resources responsibly, invests for the long-term wellbeing of the planet and treat people fairly. Same as individual consumers, corporates need to their best to protect the environment and keep it safe for future generations.
What are sustainable development goals (SDGs)?
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. There are 17 goals around the global challenges we face. We can see the progress of the SDGs at SDG Tracker.
What is social environmental governance (ESG)?
ESG is a set of measurable standards for a company’s behavior. It is used to look at how a company safeguards the environment, how it manages relationships with all people involved, and the leadership and accountability in the company. It is often used by socially responsible investors to put their money where their values are.
A study found social and governance performance can have significant relationship on economic performance, but not environmental performance. Another study found no clear evidence how ESG conduct leads to financial performance, and the link between is not straightforward. However, it is gaining more demands from investors and could become one of major criteria for them.
What is green economy?
A green economy is about low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive economy. In a green economy, growth in employment and income are driven by public and private investment, assets and operation are designed to have the least harm to the environment as possible. It is closely related with ecological economics but is more political focus.
Green economy is important because it encourages economies to become more sustainable and low-carbon. For example, China allocated huge funds for the development of green forest areas, solar and hydropower plants. We can find examples of green economy in our everyday lives as well.
- Sustainable building designs with rooftop harvesting and recycling area made from recycled materials
- Advanced battery recycling system
- Composting food waste for organic farming
What is circular economy?
A circular economy is a model that ensure materials are re-used and recycled as long as possible instead of disposing of them. By practicing circular economy, we can reduce significant amount of waste. The challenges are designing and developing products to be easily re-used or recycled. We also need to develop systems to re-use and recycle the materials efficiently.
Our product package material, cellulose film, is made from renewable wood pulps. It is home compostable and enhance soil quality to regenerate plants. It is designed to easily fit in a circular economy.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Criteria - https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/environmental-social-and-governance-esg-criteria.asp
Does Environmental, Social, and Governance Performance Influence Economic Performance? - https://journals.vilniustech.lt/index.php/JBEM/article/view/12725#:~:text=The%20overall%20ESG%20model%20had,to%20show%20a%20significant%20relationship.
Understanding the effects of environment, social, and governance conduct on financial performance - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2773032822000049
Transforming the Waste Economy - https://research.csiro.au/circulareconomy/