Home Sustainability 101 What is sustainability? Basic things you should know by now
What is sustainability? Basic things you should know by now

What is sustainability? Basic things you should know by now

If you asked me 3 years ago about sustainability, I would probably associate this word with…something extremely boring and basically lame lifestyle. Back then, for me, it was the type of concept which is a mantra for a typical Floyd: the hippie guy who prays to Mother Earth on Burning Man, wears ugly linen trousers and disregards the beauty of social progress.  Boooring, coz come on, XXI century is all about YOLO and being glamour.

Well, it’s 2016 and I have obviously changed my mind. I had my enlightenment moment while writing master’s thesis about the fast fashion industry. After analysing tonnes of data regarding our environment, I’ve realised that sustainable development is not a brief trend. It’s an urgent necessity for modern people.

Nevertheless, before I will start to slobber over sustainable life, let’s get some basic information about this concept.

What is this “sustainability” all about…

One thing is for sure: sustainability is much easier to understand than to pronounce after a few shots of vodka.

It’s no secret: the skyrocketing development of consumerism is causing the irreversible damages in the environment. Due to our cupidity, we are now running out of the crucial natural resources. Overall, we are using 1.62 times more resources than the Earth can renew.

And here we have sustainability. This quality challenges us to use the small, but important, organ in our heads and try to visualise the world based on consumption and current YOLO lifestyle in 30-40 years. According to the countless scientists, this future simply sucks…

Fortunately, it does not have to be like this. We still have time to change it by implementing sustainability & consciousness in our lives on a big scale.

Sustainability is no rocket science. It’s based on a simple “live and let live” rule. It demands from us a bit of responsibility.

Everyone in sustainable society should be aware of the social and environmental consequences of his activity and consumer’s choices.

Basically, we should all live in a way that will not make it impossible for future generations to develop.

Let’s get a bit nerdy.  The environmentalist Paul Hawken, described it like this:

Sustainability is an economic state where the demands placed upon the environment by people and commerce can be met without reducing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations”.

How did it all start: born to be…responsible

For centuries, people thought that our activity had absolutely no impact on Earth and that natural resources were like KFC refill- endless. The first strong voices underlining the importance of slowing down with consumption came from the hippie subculture in 1960’s. Was it because it’s hard to keep up with the world development when you are permanently stoned? Frankly, that could have been a valid factor.

Despite the Woodstock atmosphere in the air or thanks to it, that was a time when some of the leading environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were born.

FOE workshop at Nambassa Festival in New Zeland (1978)

FOE workshop at Nambassa Festival in New Zeland (1978)

Photo: FOE workshop at Nambassa Festival in New Zeland (1978) by Nambassa Trust and Peter Terry.

Rise of sustainability in the public discourse

The beginning of intellectual approach towards sustainability dates back to 1970’s. As you can imagine, it wasn’t the best time to convince “the party people” to think about the future of the next generations.

Moreover, it was a time of the space invasion both in real live & TV. In 1968 Charlton Heston landed on the Planet of Apes. In 1969 Armstrong walked on the moon (huge ego boost for humanity). Not to mention the glory of Star Wars back in 1977.  When Sci-Fi is all around you, I guess, it’s easy to think that once we fuck up planet Earth, we can just fly to another. “Easy, if Robert Plant fitted his balls in XXS women’s trousers WE CAN INVADE THE SPACE, there is obviously no limit of human endurance”. 

Jokes aside. When party youth was exploring the side effects of LSD, a group of scientists from MIT Research Team called Club of Rome focused on proving that Earth actually has its limits. In 1972, they published the report Limits of Growth (check it here). Its message was pretty clear. Stop this f*cking bacchanal consumption party now or we will all have a hangover so massive, that only a few will be able to survive (they wrote it of course in convincing,  academic language with polls etc.).

What are our limits of growth?

Club of Rome’s predictions after 40 years turned out to be amazingly accurate. Did people take it seriously? Well, I am just watching a sneak peek of TLC’s Extreme couponing where a 160 kg woman is buying 200 kg of food for 2$ just to store it in her basement…I guess not many people bothered and learned their lesson from Limits of Growth

Despite the disinterest from the masses, MIT scientists’ work gained some crucial attention at UN Conference in Stockholm (1972) which focused exclusively on human interactions with the environment. This event was extremely important in the history of sustainability as the term Sustainable Development has been used there for the first time.

United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972)

United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972)

Photo: United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) Meets at Stockholm, UN Photo by Yutaka Nagata.

Enjoy & share your opinion below!

More about why we should switch to sustainability can be found in Part II of Sustainability 101 guide.


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