These days everything is ascribed the descriptor of being ‘smart’: smartphones, smart watches, and smart cars. It is time that we get smart about our efforts toward sustainability. This type of ‘smartness’ has an inherent message within it that our resources will be better managed, more efficiently used, and better able to meet the ever changing needs of a growing world. Awareness, technology, and the evolution of clean living are the key to this.
Sustainability is the process through which we ensure humanity is not adversely affecting the ecological balance of the biological systems of the earth. The concept of sustainability has evolved tremendously over the past 50 years. We have come a long way since the Clean Air Act, originally passed in 1970. Reducing waste by recycling and limitations placed upon carbon emissions are now more commonplace. This drive toward sustainability is characterized by an awareness of how our actions collectively affect the world and the future we leave to our children.
The resources of the earth are finite. When resources are consumed to excess, the demand disastrously outstrips the supply our world can produce. Achieving sustainability theoretically will enable the earth and its biological systems to produce indefinitely. Inadequately sustainable land development and resource harvesting results in declining ecological diversity. At the core of this issue is the idea of ethical consumerism and responsible stewardship.
Improving sustainability in densely populated urban environments is vital. Cities account for approximately 80% of global carbon emissions. Creating green alternatives in communities in both agriculture and transportation will play an important role in mitigating this. Building smart grid infrastructure will support these changes and create what are called ‘smart cities’, which incorporate the pinnacle of sustainable city planning. Air and water quality, weather changes, road traffic, and energy consumption can all be monitored through networks of smart cities and this allows any changes to be carefully monitored.
From a different perspective, sustainability is finding a way to efficiently use the resources we consume. In the United States, nearly half of all food is wasted annually and the cost totals $165 billion per year. To put that into perspective, the annual cost of providing the world with clean water and in-house piped sanitation is $136.5 billion. Clearly local negligence and wastefulness comes with a global cost.
When having a conversation about sustainability, it’s helpful to recognize that each branch of sustainability has unique challenges and facets to consider. Creating sustainable worldwide agriculture is obviously very different than creating a sustainable fuel source. The choices we make about products we consume contributes either to the problem or solution. Carefully research environmentally friendly alternatives whenever possible.
Sustainability is important because we cannot collectively maintain our quality of life if we don’t protect and coexist with the ecosystems of the earth. Fossil fuels are a finite resource, and their excessive usage damages the atmosphere. Trees are renewable, but only if responsibly maintained. Clear cutting the forests of the world throws ecosystems into disarray and causes the extinction of untold numbers of animal, plant, and insect species.
We must continue to strive toward sustainable and renewable living because our personal decisions collectively have consequences. Reduce your waste, reuse what you can, and recycle as much as possible. If we all take steps now to more widely embrace these positive changes, true sustainability can still be achieved.