The UN Bruntland commission of 1987 defined sustainable development as that which enables meeting current needs and not compromising future generations ability to meet their needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987 p9). It involves use of practices that meet the present needs without a compromise on the future generations to meet their own needs as regards the use and waste of the natural resources. Morelli (2013) defined sustainability as creating a balance where human beings meet their needs without overexploiting the ecosystem and without destroying biological diversity. Some of the current global environmental problems that need to be addressed include the depletion of ozone layer, increase in deserts, and destruction of forests among other environmental issues and they pose a risk to global security (Speth, 1992 p 870). Sustainability is a problem that requires collaboration among international organizations, national bodies and individuals all trying to look for methods of protecting the environment for posterity. This paper will discuss sustainability and innovations in food and clothing for sustainability.
Principles of Sustainability
Ben-Eli (2004) discussed five principles of sustainability in particular domains, thus: material domain, economic domain, life domain, social and spiritual domains. Each of these affects all the others and it is also affected in return by the other domains, showing that nature itself consists interdependence. These domains can be used to develop policies and operational procedures. To achieve sustainability, one has to consider all the domains listed as a whole in order to yield the expected results which are effective and lasting.
The purpose of sustainability push is to ensure an alignment among people, the society, economy and the environment to ensure it retains its capacity to regenerate the planet’s capacity for life support. For sustainability to be meaningful, it has to focus on balanced interactions of the people with the environment they live in. The figure below shows the framework for environmental sustainability and its enablers.
Figure 1: Integrated framework for sustainability. Source: UN report, 2012 p.24. Retrieved May 13, 2017 from: https://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Post_2015_UNTTreport.pdf
The ecological sustainability pushes for human beings to meet their needs without hurting the ecosystems. The economic sustainability emphasizes that the economic activities of today should not burden the generations in future. The total effects of protecting the environment need to be minimized. In social sustainability, communities can achieve positive conditions (McKenzie, 2004 p31). Social sustainability emphasizes equity of services between generations, citizens’ participation in democracy, ownership of environmental concerns and awareness of sustainability. Environmental sustainability champions for well being of the environment. It emphasizes the dualistic relationship between human beings and the ecosystem. Environmental sustainability is broad in meaning emphasizing meeting the needs of the current and the future generations without affecting the ecosystem that provides those needs.
Supporting Environmental Sustainability
Different authors offer some guidelines for assisting in sustainability of the environment. To meet people’s needs, the produced goods should contribute to a sustainable economy (Moffat & Newton, 2010 p45). All new products must undergo environment impact assessment of the product in its entire lifecycle Local employment and fair trade should also be supported. Raw materials for have to be reviewed for sustainability and they need to maintain biodiversity of the natural resources (Moffat & Newton, 2010 p46). The sources of energy should be sustainable and used responsibly and efficiently.
The exploitation of renewable resources has to be maintained within regenerative capacity and use non renewable resources below rate of renewable substitute development (Goodland, 1995 p15). Use of nonrenewable resources need to be optimal and of sustainable levels and waste minimized to ensure it does not degrade the ecosystem. Reuse and recycle should always be encouraged. Manufacturing processes need to reduce waste and emissions to zero (Robinson, 2004 p369).
People need to be educated on sustainability to create new knowledge and skills for shaping attitudes and consumption patterns for sustainable development. Young people require to be trained for skills that prepare them for jobs that enhance environmental sustainability thus empowering them. Local communities should be involved in promoting sustainability of the environment in local activities.
The cities that are coming up have to be sustainable. They need to use energy efficiently and be prepared for disaster management. The cities should contain all basic services for people and provide decent employment for all people. They should not carry forward the current problems of slum dwellings lacking in basic necessities. Peace and security of all the people and absence from violence and discrimination are also important and should be upheld (United Nations System Task Team, 2012 p28).
Relevant Innovations to Ensure Sustainability
Sustainable living extends to all aspects of human life. Two aspects of sustainable living to be discussed include food and clothing. It is important to be cautious about the choices we make for both food and clothing. These include the way of manufacture, the use of sustainable raw materials, and their effect on the environment. Reduction of waste is also a factor to be considered regarding these two aspects.
While choosing clothes the choice should be of the material that can be recycled is encouraged. Most of the man made material can be recycled and make good choice. It is recommended for one to avoid use of clothes made form material that are not recyclable. Consider the raw materials used to make the materials. For example, cotton may not be environmentally friendly due to the use of chemicals and pesticides in its growth. An example is hemp which is an organic product and produces fibre which can make clothing. Examples of other environmentally sustainable fabrics are those made from linen, bamboo and organic wool which all make for green choices.
Clothes can be reused as second hand. There are stores that resell used clothes and this should be encouraged. Sharing of clothes should be encouraged to avoid wastage and can be encouraged through community donations. Washing of clothing using strong detergents has effects on the environment and wastage of water. Clothes that can be reused before washing should be encouraged. Also, the washing machines that are energy efficient and use less water are a good choice for sustainability.
A new innovation of a machine that sorts out discarded clothes and separates those that can be recycled from those that cannot. The sorting machine uses infrared light to sort the different materials in to separate bins to enable ease of recycling (Schuetze, 2012 para 3). This was developed from the increase in waste of used clothes which affects the environment. Recycling saves the environment by reducing carbon emissions and wastage of water and use of pesticides and fertilizers in the growth of new raw materials.
Companies around the world are looking for new and innovative ways of packaging food that is sustainable. For example, paper cups use more electricity to manufacture, waste water and causes pollution (One development is down gauging bottles which involves using less material on the walls of the bottles. Both Pepsi and Cocacola adopted thinner bottles for their products to reduce amount of plastic raw materials used (Blumer, 2010 p4). The machines also have to be down gauges to be able to handle the new delicate packaging. The poly lactic acid material is made from corn starch and it uses less energy than plastic and emits fewer greenhouse gases. Many companies like Wall mart and Wild Oats have now adopted this material for packaging due to its environmental friendly qualities.
Companies are also using edible or recycled packaging products. The switch in packaging products is being made to natural fibre products made from hemp, natural leaves or local grass in nano technology. There is also intelligent food packaging that uses radio frequency identification to monitor food condition in the packaging. These can control food conditions including age, temperature, bacteria, and others. This will help in control of food quality and thus reduce wastage (Blumer, 2010 p12).
Other current innovations in food sustainability revolve around crop and livestock production, ensuring safe growth of food and reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides which destroy the environment. Organic growth of food is being encouraged to produce safe food. Wastage of food also needs to be minimized and food storage enhanced to ensure food does not go bad. Food recycling is another welcome sustainable development, for example manufacturing of beer using recycled bread.
To achieve sustainability, it is important to deal with the root causes of the problems. This requires that everyone including governments, environmentalists, business people and others to work together to get solutions that will leave a better environment for future generations (Speth, 1992 p 872). Several innovations have been developed meant to increase efficiency, reduce waste and save the environment for future generations in both food and clothing among other areas. The focus now is going green or organic in the manufacture, processing and distribution where possible. This paper has discussed sustainability, two aspects of sustainable living including food and clothing and innovations to ensure sustainability.
Ben-Eli, M., 2004. Sustainability: The Five Core Principles–A New Framework. Buckminster Fuller Institute. Retrieved May 13, 2017 from: https://bfi-internal. org/sustainability/principles
Blumer, T., 2010. Innovations in Sustainable Food Packaging. California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, p.3.
Goodland, R., 1995. The concept of environmental sustainability. Annual review of ecology and systematics, 26(1), pp.1-24.
McKenzie, S., 2004. Social sustainability: towards some definitions. Hawke Research Institute, 31.
Moffat, A. and Newton, A., 2010. The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability. Ceres, Boston. P 45-64.
Morelli, J., 2013. Environmental Sustainability: A Definition for Environmental Professionals. Journal of environmental sustainability, 1(1), p.2.
United Nations System Task Team, 2012. Realizing the future we want for all. Report to the Secretary-General.
Robinson, J., 2004. Squaring the Circle? Some Thoughts on the Idea of Sustainable Development. Ecological Economics, 48(4), pp.369-384.
Schuetze, C. (2012). Sustainable Innovation: Reducing Fashion’s Carbon Footprint. New York Times
Speth, J.G., 1992. The Transition to a Sustainable Society. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 89(3), pp.870-872.
World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Our Common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cited in RMIT, ibid, p 9.