The concept of sustainability emerged in the 1960s and has gained a lot of importance in the past few decades because of the world population becoming more and more concerned about the environment around them. Sustainability can be defined as an approach that aims at optimum utilisation of earth’s natural resources in way that the present demand is met without having to compromise with the needs of the future generations. The concept of sustainability aims at assessing the effect of society and economic development on the environment in order to ensure continuous supply of natural resources. The increasing effect of human activities and the carbon footprint left on the environment is bringing about an emergency to stop certain practices that are depleting the environment and switch to a sustainable development and growth lifestyle (Anon., n.d.). (McCulloch & Reid, 2015)
Another important area where the concept of sustainability has emerged is business. Business organisations are now shifting towards sustainable business practices in order to reduce their impact on the environment, which also forms an important part of their corporate social responsibility (Zorn & Collins, 2007).
Sustainable living, in simple words, can be defined as a lifestyle that is based upon an objective of reducing a society’s or an individual’s consumption of the earth’s natural resource and personal resource in order to assure long term sustainability of these resources (Cubukcu, 2013). Two of the many important aspects of sustainable living are discussed below:
Reducing wastage à reducing the amount of wastage in a society or by an individual is one of the most important aspects of sustainable living because a sustainable living cannot achieved until and unless there is wastage of natural and personal resources in the society. Reducing wastage in sustainable living does not only implies to a reduction in the usage of natural resources to avoid wastage but also extends to a reduction in tonnes of wastage material that is dumped every year, which has an exponential impact on the environment because of the harmful effects that physical rubbish has on our land (The Wellbeing Team, n.d.). By informing the world population about the concept of sustainable living and waste reduction, it is possible to bring it to their notice that there is an emergency and it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. A major area where wastage reduction is being practices is the food and power industry. People who have adopted a sustainable lifestyle aim at reducing their power consumption in order to avoid wastage of earth’s natural resources and also reducing wastage of food products.
Recycling à the second most important aspect of sustainable living is recycling. Recycling is defined as a process in which waste materials are converted into new materials and objects that can be used for various purposes (Grosse, 2010). Recycling, together with waste reduction, forms an important part of sustainable living and sustainable development as it not only aims at recycling the waste materials into something that can be put to use again but also aims at development of recyclable products and materials. The concept of sustainable living, recycling and green products has spread at such a fast pace and to such an extent that the present day customers are more interested in doing business with those organisations that follow sustainable business practices and develop green products (King, et al., 2005). In sustainable living, recycling plays an important role as it also aims at discovering renewable resources of energy that can be regenerated or recycles from time to time and can help in the conservation of non-renewable resources of energy.
In the past few years, the concept of sustainability and the intent to save the environment as a part of a business’ corporate social responsibility has shaped the decision making process of the company and also a lot of technological innovations that have helped in making the concept of sustainability possible. Some of the latest technological innovations that are helping in achieving individual as well as collective sustainability goals are discussed below:
A recent technological innovation that might shape the future of sustainable living is the discovery of diesel fuel by a group of researchers working at the University of Illinois. The researchers have discovered a way of producing diesel fuel and other petroleum products with the use of grocery bags as a raw material. One of the best advantages of this newly discovered process is that the energy consumed in the conversion process from grocery bags to diesel fuel is way less than than the energy produced, which makes it an even better proposition for sustainable development and growth (Sharmaa, et al., 2014).
Another major innovation in order to achieve sustainability is an initiative by an Indian entrepreneur, Ahmed Khan, who founded K.K. Plastic Waste Management in the early 1990s. The basic objective behind the starting of this company was to mix plastics with landfills and asphalts and develop a new material that could be used for building roads. Till date, over 1,000 miles of roads has been built using this newly discovered material and the roads have been found to wear better than the traditional roads, have a longer life and are more resistance towards monsoons.
3-D printing is another innovation that has made sustainable development and growth more possible than ever. If the resources are to be believed, a continuous development in the 3-D technology might make it possible to construct a complete house on a single day. 3-D printing uses grinded up plastics from households and other plastic waste and puts it into use for printing. 3-D printing has a number of other applications and can effectively deal with the wastage that is related to plastic bags and other plastic products (Berman, 2012).
Another recent innovation that can help in achieving a sustainable growth and lifestyle is the discovery of a new technique by Scientists at the University of Adelaide that can help in turning plastic bags into high tech CNTs, also known as Carbon Nanotube Membranes. Carbon Nanotube Membranes are the strongest materials on this planet. They are hundreds of time stronger than steel when it comes to strength and are also six times lighter than steel. Owing to the strength of this material, nanotubes have been constructed with a length to diameter ratio of 132,000,000:1, which is impossible for any other material. CNTs are now being used for the production of innovative electronics, wind turbines, sensing devices and more. CNTs have a lot of potential and can change the way of living in the future by offering more opportunities in medical innovations.
A recent attempt towards sustainable development has been the initiative taken by the American government to switch from papers to digital. In 2012, Barrack Obama signed a legislation that has made it mandatory for the EPA to move to a digital system of record keeping. Under this legislation, the retailers and commercial businesses will be able to report their hazardous waste to EPA via an e-manifest. Using this process, it would become easier for the American government to keep a track of industrial and commercial waste.
Some countries have also made it mandatory for business organisations as well as individuals to follow composting practices. Composting is a natural process in which waste materials and decomposed organic matter is converted into a rich soil known as compost. Composting of organic matter can help the society in returning back the nutrients back to the soil and make sustainability possible (Bertoldi, et al., n.d.).
The concept of sustainability has been a debatable topic since its foundation back in the 1960s. The ever increasing effect of human activities on the Earth’s environment and ecology has increased the importance of sustainable practices in day-to-day life and business activities. Most of the people have started following sustainable practices in their day to day life as they feel that they have a role to play in saving their environment but some people still argue whether the concept of sustainability is sustainable in the long run. There are certain business organisations that have become more competitive by incorporating sustainable business practices in their business decisions and including the concept of sustainable business in their corporate social responsibility while there are some companies that argue that following sustainable business practices can throw them out of competition because the cost involved in sustainable business practices is much more than its returns. Despite of large differences in viewpoints of people and business organisations, it is important that human beings start moving towards a sustainable lifestyle if they want their future generations to enjoy the Earth’s environment. Even business organisations will have to take the concept of sustainability seriously because they would not be able to carry out any business activities if this planet is lost because of the impact of human activities on the environment.
Anon., n.d. What is Sustainable Development. [Online] Available at: https://www.enb.gov.hk/en/susdev/sd/index.htm [Accessed 27 April 2017].
Zorn, T. E. & Collins, E., 2007. Is Sustainability Sustainable. In: The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility. s.l.:s.n.
Cubukcu, E., 2013. Walking for Sustainable Living. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences , 20 September.Volume 85.
The Wellbeing Team, n.d. How to reduce waste for sustainable living. [Online]
Available at: https://www.wellbeing.com.au/at-home/planet/Reducing-waste-for-sustainable-living.html[Accessed 27 April 2017].
Grosse, F., 2010. Is recycling “part of the solution”? The role of recycling in an expanding society and a world of finite resources. SAPI EN. S. Surveys and Perspectives Integrating Environment and Society, 3(1).
King, A. M., Burgess, S. C., Ijomah, W. & McMahon, C. A., 2005. Reducing waste: repair, recondition, remanufacture or recycle?. 29 December.29(2).
Sharmaa, B. K. et al., 2014. Production, characterization and fuel properties of alternative diesel fuel from pyrolysis of waste plastic grocery bags. Fuel Processing Technology, June.Volume 122.
Berman, B., 2012. 3-D printing: The new industrial revolution. Business Horizons, April.55(2).
McCulloch, R. & Reid, A., 2015. Your Business Degree. s.l.:s.n.
Bertoldi, M. d., Vallini, G. & Pera, A., n.d. The biology of composting: A review. Waste Management & Research, 1(2).
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