Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A-Z Simple Living: S = Sustainability

I have always lumped together the terms self-sufficiency and sustainability, as they are often written about in the same articles, or blogs, or websites that I read. So, for a long time sustainability was for me, about supporting oneself off the land...going off grid and becoming self sufficient so to speak. In searching for a true definition of sustainability I could understand my confusion as there are so many different views as to what this term actually means, and such a broad area that it encompasses. Apparently the most widely used definition of sustainability or sustainable development comes from the World Commission on Environment and Development and is outlined as: "forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."

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So, sustainability is about more than just looking after our natural environment. It is also about considering the social and economic impact of what we do and how we do it. It is about considering the impacts of climate change, and taking steps to reduce our carbon or ecological footprint...in order to sustain the world in which we live. Really important stuff which should not be ignored, right?
The NSW Government department of Environment and Heritage have summed up the core elements to be considered for a sustainable household, many of which we have discussed in this A-Z series.

1. Water Conservation 
Water is an essential part of life and maintaining a healthy environment. You can help save water by becoming more water wise.

2. Energy Conservation 
Spend less on your energy bills without compromising on comfort, by making your home more energy efficient.

3. Smarter Choice - appliances, products etc
The choices you make when buying products and appliances and the actions you take now, can help you to spend less on your energy bills, bring down your cost of living and reduce your impact on the environment.

4. Recycling and waste
The average NSW household spends nearly $1,000 each year on food they throw away. There’s many ways you can avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle waste.

5. Gardening
You don’t need a green thumb to garden sustainably. Find out how to create a healthy garden, reduce run-off, be waterwise and manage weeds.

6. Chemicals - move towards green cleaning
Modern homes contain many chemicals, which are often incorrectly disposed into landfill or sewerage. These chemicals can remain in the environment for a long time, polluting our waterways, plants, animals and human bodies.

7. Making green choices when buying or renovating
Buying or renovating a home is one of the biggest investments most people ever make. Find out how to make green choices and save money while making your home more comfortable.

I then became curious to know what our local council is doing about the sustainability issue, and was surprised to find a wealth of information on a dedicated website called Sustainable Gympie, which I never knew existed. There is a fantastic tool that you can use to calculate your ecological footprint and work out ways to save money be reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, amongst other things.

This graph indicates the size of your household's footprint and the impact your pledged and completed actions will have on reducing it. It also indicates what a sustainable footprint would be for your household i.e. based on the numbers of people in your household.

So, I think I am making a reasonably good effort to live a sustainable life, but there are still so many more things I could be doing...which I am working towards. I am off now to work out my ecological footprint and make a pledge.

Do you think about the future of our world and the impact we are having on it? What measures have you taken to ensure sustainability?

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