Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. You and I see these words almost every day and everywhere, from blogs to social media posts. Though the term “sustainability” gained popularity pretty recently, especially from the climate change movement, early stages of environmental debate began as early as 1980.
In simpler terms, being sustainable doesn’t only mean creating new technology for the betterment of our planet but our capability to maintain that stability between man and nature. The ever-changing modern world has pushed most people to start advocating for a greener Earth, especially when most of our planet is slowly being destroyed in the name of urbanization and greed.
It’s still not too late for us to demand change and take matters into our own hands, by taking small steps as individuals. That is how the sustainability movement that we know today, was born. Sustainability is defined differently for everyone, but we’re all working towards a common goal.
Despite common myths and stereotypes, living ethically does NOT make you a hippie, though that would be pretty fun too! Sustainability is not a trend or lifestyle change, it’s simply a mindset shift. It’s all about how creative we can get in finding solutions to common problems that often leave a negative mark on our environment. Honestly, it’s as simple as that.
Having a sustainable lifestyle can mean many things, from going vegan to reusing items that are usually thrown out. However, not everybody has the opportunity or budget to practice ethical living. Limitations such as age, country, ethnicity, community and poverty act as a barrier for most people when it comes to going green.
Being a high school student from Southeast Asia, I often envy those who have more opportunities and stepping stones in helping them live more sustainably, such as being able to attend climate change marches and getting sustainable swaps for a lower price. Regardless, nothing is stopping me from taking small sustainable steps such as composting leftover food, repurposing items and educating others. This is what we call imperfect sustainability.
In order to raise awareness on climate change and popularize the sustainability movement, we need to first change the way we perceive the movement. Imperfect and intersectional environmentalism helps us understand that sustainability will continue to seem foreign to millions around the globe unless we learn to be more inclusive and respectful of others within the community.
All of us can’t be forced to follow a single path, thus, shaming others for not thinking the way you do will often result in people being discouraged and giving up on the movement. This is a reminder to always be mindful of how we treat others, especially in the sustainability community.
Now, you might be thinking, “How can we tackle climate change together if everyone is not doing the same thing?”. Well, we need people from all walks of life working differently towards a common goal for this to work. A common misconception is that using plastic is unsustainable, but we often forget that plastic is used widely in multiple fields such as the field of medicine.
To put it into simpler terms, we can’t get rid of the consequences of our past actions, such as the invention of plastic and usage of cars. We can, however reduce our consumption and try to be more conscious of our carbon footprint by doing simple actions, such as carrying reusable bags and taking public transportation. To be honest, such small actions won’t get rid of climate change in a day but it can help raise awareness and contribute, though not largely, to the climate change movement.
Imperfect sustainability plays a huge role in ensuring everyone around the globe gets the message that our planet needs help and we must do something about it. We need to remember that we have the power to demand change and one cannot demand change unless one changes himself first.
Now, let’s talk about unintentional sustainability. I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard about that before and I’m not sure if it’s just something I invented! Regardless, the whole idea randomly popped into my head one day and I realized how often it’s either overlooked or not addressed at all.
Unintentional sustainability is when we carry out sustainable practices without even realizing it. Something as simple as not littering can be classified as unintentional sustainability. Furthermore, this term also highlights ancient “sustainable” practices that have been and still are carried out in some parts of the world. Using banana leaves as plates is one simple example of an ancient practice that evidently does minimal harm to the environment.
Growing up, I’ve noticed a lot of unintentional sustainability going on in my home, such as having a collection of used jars, reusing plastic bags and occasionally using banana leaves and clay pots as plates. This comes to show that we’re not new to the sustainability concept and it has actually been around for a long time. We just never paid attention to it!
On that note, I would like to remind everyone who’s reading this to take the first step. It is okay if your journey looks different from everyone else’s as we’re all working towards a common goal. You will never know how much potential you have in changing the world unless you give it a try!
Sure, your small steps may not make a huge difference but in taking the first step, you inspire so many people out there to take their first step too. Everyone knows that a collective movement bears more fruitful results. Regardless of where we’re from or how old we are, we all have our own unique ways to tackle climate change.
With that being said, here’s a gentle reminder to allow others to practice sustainability uniquely without being discriminated or shamed for their actions. Using plastic now and then doesn’t make you a bad person, so don’t let that discourage you from taking the first step. I’d recommend going on social media to get inspired first, or at least that’s how I began my sustainability journey. Never be afraid to take the first step, you never know how many people you’re inspiring.