6 Sustainability Facts and Myths You Must Know
“Sustainability” is not about protecting the environment. Yes, we are facing environmental issues, but these are the result of our unsustainable activities. Anything we cannot continue forever is unsustainable. To achieve overall sustainability, we need sustainable economy and systems as well as individual’s lifestyle.
“Don’t take more than your share.” Is not only for toddlers. It is to successfully preserve resources to our future generations. Are what (and how) you do, and what you consume sustainable?
Go green to be sustainable?
“Go green” suggests choosing natural over the artificial. For example, cotton bags are greener than plastic bags. Biofuels made from plants are greener than fossil fuels. But it doesn’t mean cotton bas and biofuels are sustainable solutions for us. When you see how much land, water, and energy have to go into those products, or new problems created such as deforestation to secure the land, greener options are not always sustainable.
Recycling makes sustainable?
If you think you are living sustainably because you recycle, you need to think again. Recycling is the least preferred way to be sustainable. This is because recycling doesn’t address the root cause of the waste problem. Some waste is recycled, but only 10 % of plastics, 25% of glass, and 17% of Aluminum are recycled. We recycle paper and cardboard well at 80% though. Plastics are also difficult to recycle because recycled plastic require use of virgin plastic to retain their strength and safety. You should still recycle as much as possible but try reducing your consumption first.
Carbon offsetting can combat climate change?
Offsetting carbon to be carbon neutral refers to balancing out your emissions by supporting projects that absorb the equivalent emissions. The projects are usually planting trees, developing renewable energy, cleaning up ocean, and restoring natural ecosystems. When you fund those projects, you can then claim you are carbon neutral. But the fundamental problem with carbon offset is it doesn’t address the root issue of needing to reduce your emissions in the first place. Funding carbon offset projects while keep creating more emissions will not help combat global warming. True sustainability means proactively finding ways to reduce waste and emissions before purchasing carbon offset.
Sustainability is too expensive?
Price tag always influence our buying decisions. It is true that you will pay more for higher quality and longer lasting products when you purchase them in a store. But think twice, are cheap products really cheap? The truth is we have been avoiding paying the cost for some parts of product lifecycle. We pay for the production cost, but the true cost of product includes many other things like managing waste, cleaning pollutions, and managing health issues.
For example, disposable sandwich bags cost you $2 in a store, but this doesn’t represent the true cost. You are paying hidden costs (subside to oil industry, pollutions, waste management, etc.) via tax or other forms of fees. On the other hand, reusable silicone bag may cost you $10 initially, but it will offset after some uses. It is same for clothes, furniture, appliances, and other items. Silicone is also easier to recycle and less harmful to the environment. Buying high quality products that can last very long time is in fact very sustainable.
Do you want to know the true cost of plastic?
Remember to reduce unnecessary purchases first, then “invest” your money when you purchase something. Don’t throw your money away by spending on items that you use only a few minutes.
Sustainable lifestyle takes too much effort?
If sustainability was easy as switching to eco-friendly products, we wouldn’t be in the current situation. How much effort is too much depends on what is important to you. No one cannot convince you that adjusting your lifestyle to be more sustainable is not hard. Just remember… When the basics of your life is threatened, holidays, parties, and all other things on your wishing list won’t happen.
New technologies can solve the sustainability issues?
To support the human population, we do need technology to live comfortably. And technology can solve some problems but not all. The main issue with technological fixes such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear fusion, or injecting particulates into the atmosphere takes a long time and may be unfeasible to scale up to the required levels. For example, carbon capture methods may use half of the global electricity generation to be able to remove enough carbon from the atmosphere. This would then make transitioning to renewables difficult. You cannot say any solution “sustainable” until a complete life-cycle analysis of its environmental costs is correctly done. Relying on new technology also makes us to delay taking actions to reduce emissions.
Technology can help combat climate change but will not solve all issues without us changing our lifestyle to more sustainable way.
Our lifestyle focus has been convenience, more choices, and economical growth. We didn’t consider sustainability very carefully. There are carbon offset projects, technology, or new systems to help with sustainability issues. But they cannot solve all problems for us. It is time to prioritize and make an effort to make your own lifestyle more sustainable rather than relying on other people’s actions. Those myths around sustainability and climate change builds on the assumption that all problems are local. Unfortunately, they are not local. All of us need to learn and work on sustainability at all levels from your own consumption to government policy.
Tech alone cannot solve climate crisis - https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/tech-alone-cannot-solve-climate-crisis/
Is Silicone Recyclable? - https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/is-silicone-recyclable.php
Top 10 Myths about Sustainability - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/top-10-myths-about-sustainability/