The environmental policy debate of the 1990s set a huge ball rolling: the idea of sustainability. Today, it is no longer limited to environmental aspects alone – it also includes economic and social aspects.
Sustainability in everyday life
Our daily lives offer many opportunities to leave an intact world for future generations. This relates above all to our (consumer) behavior in the following areas:
- Building and living
- Financial services
- Energy (electricity consumption and electrical appliances)
- Food and nutrition
- Mobility and transport
- Textiles and clothing
- Tourism and travel
Questions and answers: How can sustainability be lived?
A number of fundamental questions arise from the definition of sustainability in everyday life. They can all be subsumed under two initial questions:
- What does the concept of sustainability mean in concrete terms for the individual areas of our everyday lives?
- How sustainably can we actually live?
What does sustainable consumption mean?
Sustainable consumers are ecologically and socially responsible people. After all, consumption is sustainable if it enables future generations to meet their own needs and choose their own lifestyles.
It is important to note: Each individual’s consumption impacts not only locally on the ground, but also on the environment and people all over the world due to production processes and supply chains that take place globally.
You cannot not consume. That’s why it’s important to consume consciously: look closely and consider your overall personal balance.
Specifically, consuming sustainably means:
- The use and consumption of goods and services,
- that satisfy the needs of the consumer
- conserve the environment and resources, and
- socially acceptable
- as well as economically viable.
What does sustainability mean in business?
Companies play a particularly important role in the implementation of sustainable development. This is due, among other things, to their innovative strength.
In the United Nations 2030 Agenda, Goals 7, 8, 9 and 12 in particular deal with the economic development aspects:
Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy.
Energy is a fundamental prerequisite for economic and social development. Clean energy sources are as much a key factor in this as increasing energy efficiency.
Goal 8: Sustainable development as an opportunity for all
Globalization offers many opportunities for greater prosperity. However, not everyone benefits in the same way. When it comes to good work with minimum social standards and adequate wages, many countries still have a need for development.
Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
The sustainability of economic growth, production, cities, and education and healthcare systems – all important sustainability goals – are inconceivable without intelligent innovations, modern infrastructures and a high-performance industry.
Goal 12: Sustainable production and consumption
The earth has its limits. In order to continue to live well, we must not only adapt our consumption, but also our production techniques. This also applies to the use of resources as well as occupational safety, health and environmental protection.
Not sustainable = not fit for the future
In this context, sustainability for business is not just a question of production adaptation, workers’ rights and resource use. Many companies have understood that they are not considered fit for the future if they do not take into account the consequences of their actions for the environment, people and politics.
How sustainable can we invest money?
Sustainable investments have been an important topic for some years now. In terms of total invested assets, they are still in the single-digit percentage range. But the number of providers of sustainable financial services is growing.
The easiest way to evaluate investments under sustainability criteria is to invest in companies, funds or indices that pay as much attention to environmental protection and production conditions as they do to fair corporate governance. By contrast, companies that permit child or forced labor, produce alcohol or tobacco, weapons or genetically modified food are excluded.
To identify companies that operate within these sustainable guidelines, investment funds often employ analysts or even research institutes.
They evaluate them according to so-called ESG criteria and corporate governance criteria. The abbreviation ESG stands for Environment, Social and Governance.
How can I build and live sustainably?
The construction, expansion, use, modernization and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure consume a large amount of land, energy and raw materials. But the use of raw materials is also limited.
No matter whether wood, crude oil or other products: The amount that can be extracted or mined will constantly decrease if demand continues to grow strongly and thus exceeds supply. Therefore, we have to say goodbye to the previous construction methods, techniques and behavior patterns of the so-called fossil age.
In doing so, there is great scope to satisfy our housing needs at a high level with a significantly lower consumption of natural resources.
There are intelligent alternatives to the usual forms of construction and living:
- renewable building materials,
- energy-efficient household appliances,
- saving electricity,
- proper heating,
- sustainable furniture,
- ecological cleaning,
- saving water
What is meant by sustainable education?
Sustainable education enables people to think and act in a future
- think and
- to act in a way that is fit for the future.
In doing so, some key questions are particularly important:
- How do my choices and consumption today affect the lives of subsequent generations around the world?
- What impact do the means of transportation or the energy I use have?
- What can we do about poverty?
- What leads to conflicts, terror and flight?
Consciously dealing with these issues is the result of sustainable education. It makes it possible to understand the effects of our actions on the world – and to make responsible decisions.
When are foods sustainable?
Sustainable living includes sustainable nutrition. The most important basic rule is to throw away as little food as possible. Many products are still good to eat even though they have passed their best-before date.
To protect the environment, it is important to check the ecological footprint of food: Often the transport of regional products has less impact on nature than fruit, milk and vegetables that have traveled a long way to our supermarkets.
Tropical, but fair
When buying tropical fruits such as pineapples, bananas and mangoes, look to see if they are certified:
- Were they grown in an environmentally friendly way?
- Were the local farmers paid appropriately?
Seals from the EU, Fairtrade or other organizations provide straightforward information on this.
Meat and fish – enjoy consciously
Meat and fish lovers in particular should reduce their consumption. After all, farming, catching, transporting and slaughtering all drive up CO2 emissions considerably.
If meat is to be consumed, then it is best to buy it from animal-friendly and domestic sources. Fish should always come from certified sustainable fisheries.
Packaging? Recycle or avoid!
Whether plastic, glass, cardboard or Tetrapaks: food is rarely available without packaging. The production and disposal of packaging consumes raw materials and energy.
Much of it can be recycled. But it is much more sustainable to avoid waste. In addition, reusable packaging and carrier bags save a lot.
What’s more, many foods don’t need packaging. More and more packaging-free supermarkets are proving that shopping can be much more sustainable, for example with Tupperware.