Sustainability comes from the Latin verb sustentāre, which means to ‘support’, ‘care’, translating into ‘to sustain’ (sustinēre). Throughout decades of the environmental movement, sustainability has become a household term. We hear it applied to many things such as sustainable cars, sustainable economics, sustainable lifestyle, etc. However, sustainability is a concept we often use in our lives but do not fully understand its meaning. In this article, we will debunk the four most commonly known myths about sustainability.
Myth 1: “Sustainable” means “green.”
The term “green” is often used to describe practices that seek to protect the environment. In contrast, “sustainability” aims to protect the environment and improve people’s quality of life at present and in the future. The difference between these two approaches comes down to the limits of our natural resources. Going green is often associated with reducing environmental impacts to zero. On the other hand, sustainability aims to expand and explore activities that will improve the quality of life while having far less impact on our environment. (Check out a detailed breakdown here.)
Myth 2: Sustainability is too expensive.
Some people argue that sustainability is expensive. There is some truth to this, however, “it’s only true in the short term in certain circumstances, but certainly not in the long term”, says Anthony Cortese, founder, and president of the sustainability education organization Second Nature. When there is an unsustainable system in place, the image of sustainability being too expensive comes into the picture. Governments and companies can take bigger steps compared to individuals by pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and cut down their energy use. Of course, pledges should be partnered with action and accountability.
Myth 3: We can make do with recycling.
In the early 1970s, recycling was the most eminent message that surfaced out of the environmental movement. While recycling is important, it is only a piece of the puzzle. There is some ugly truth that we need to acknowledge when we recycle. A more sustainable way of helping our environment is reducing our consumption to only what we need.
Myth 4: Sustainability is a population problem.
We often hear that the problem is the growing population of our world. While this holds some truth, it also represents a false solution. “At the current population level of 6.5 billion, we’re using up resources at an unsustainable rate”, according to Michael Lemonick of Scientific American. There is no humane of reducing the population without desecrating individual human rights.