I’m not going to lie, this term confused me for the longest time. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what sustainability meant and how it even applied to me. I knew it had to do with the environment and that it was important. That was about it. Maybe I didn’t try to learn more initially because I was afraid what I would discover. Or because I felt like it was a term beyond my intellect. Well, turns out it’s not such a scary term to understand but an extremely important one to be aware of. 

Dictionary.com defines sustainability (in enviornmental terms) as the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. Yeah, ok, that’s nice but let’s break it down. 

Harmful to the environment 

This would be pollution, including but not limited to what we are putting in the air, water and earth. From huge factory waste to what we personally pour down the drain is all incorporated in pollution.  Why is pollution so harmful to the envirment? Because it doesn’t just disappear. No one thinks about landfills when they put out their garbage to be picked up, but that doesn’t  mean they don’t exist. An “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to waste is dangerous. Pollution has been attributed to things like global warming, sickness, garbage littered beaches, danger to marine life and ozone depletion. 

Depleting Natural Resources 

Natural Resourses are anything that’s on earth that we didn’t make ourselves: water, air, wood, oil, iron, coal, etc. They are natural because they come from the earth and they are resources because we can use them to make stuff. Resource depletion refers to using up resources before they have time to be replenished. To go even deeper, there are renewable and non-renewable resources.  A tree would be renewable because you can cut one down and another will grow. Non renewable resources include oil, natural gas and coal.  Technically non-renewable can be replenished but it would take billions of years so…you get the point. 

Long-term Ecological Balance 

Ecological or ecology is(in a nutshell) the relationship living things have with each other and their surrounds. So a balance of this would mean it all works the way nature intended. You could then say an imbalance would disrupt this harmony and in turn affect all living things. So, to make sure the balance stays in effect for the long term, we don’t want to mess it up. 

So basically, if something is sustainable, that means it doesn’t pollute, it uses resources wisely and we all get to live on a healthy planet with healthy people. In the end, sustainability is a word we should be using more. It’s not scary, it’s not unreasonable. It’s a caring word used by people who love other people and their planet.