Environmental sustainability is achieved by managing natural resources in such a way that current needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Conceiving environmental sustainability
- An aphorism that helps to conceive sustainability comes from Baron Robert Baden-Powell (probably drawn from ancient traditions) who said ‘We did not inherit the world from our fathers, but we borrowed it from our children and to them we must return it better than we found it’;
- An annual event that aims to create awareness about the (un)sustainable use of environmental resources is Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which the renewable resources that the Earth is capable of regenerating over 365 days are exhausted.
Environmental sustainability often requires a long-term view, but it is important to understand its applicability at an immediate level as well. It is not only about reducing the negative impact on the environment, but also about creating innovative solutions that contribute to the well-being of today’s society. The key objective of environmental sustainability is to balance human needs with the Earth’s capacity to provide vital resources such as water, clean air, fertile soil and biodiversity. This involves minimising pollution, promoting the responsible use of resources, protecting fragile ecosystems and adopting practices that contribute to climate change mitigation.
Achieving these goals requires a holistic view that involves governments, businesses, communities and individuals in informed decisions that consider the interconnectedness of the environment, the economy and society. This approach is reflected in innovative public policies, responsible business practices and environmentally-oriented individual behaviour.
A key aspect of environmental sustainability is the ‘life cycle’ concept, which analyses the impact of a product or activity from extraction of raw materials to production, consumption and end of life. This impact can be measured with a calculation method called LCA and helps to promote recycling, reuse and efficiency, thus minimising the impact on the environment.