Want to know why I'm so optimistic about our future?
Because believe it or not, there was a time when I wasn't.
When starting my academic career in Environmental Studies, I was overwhelmed by the monstrous environmental problems presented to me in lecture.
It all seemed so depressing and made me wonder if I even wanted to go down this seemingly hopeless road.
As I learned more about the many facets of environmental studies however, I began recognizing patterns and discovering hopeful opportunities for solutions.
This was one of the main reasons for starting GreenStain.
My goal with GreenStain is to take the wealth of knowledge I've accumulated through my academic endeavors around the world and deliver only the most important information I discovered.
I want to provide everyone with the tools and resources to make a permanent mark or "stain" on society.
How can you solve the world's biggest problems?
By understanding the basics.
As with solving any problem, starting with a solid foundation of subject knowledge and related skills is the best way to discover and implement a solution.
In the environmental field, one topic in particular serves as the ultimate goal or solution.
Ask any environmentalist and they will confidently tell you that this topic is Sustainability.
But what is this Sustainability thing everyone keeps chirping about?
Simply put, sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.
And currently, our practices and processes as a species are unsustainable.
For perspective, it is estimated that humans currently use about 40% more resources in one year than are able to be regenerated.
Changing the above statistic involves doing things in an intelligent way. A way that may be different from what we are currently used to, and that's okay.
"Just because something is a certain way, doesn't mean it's the best way."
Question: So is sustainability only about saving the environment?
Answer: Hell no
Sustainability is used in a variety of different contexts as it applies to a plethora of different topics, with environmental concerns being just one.
In fact, sustainability involves a vast array of complex systems that funnel down to three core areas as outlined by the World Summit on Social Development.
The three main pillars below are recognized in national standards, certification schemes, and are widely accepted as the framework outlining our world's biggest problems.
1. Social Development
Maximizing health and wellness of ourselves, family, friends, and all of society.
Mantra: Treat others as you'd want to be treated 2. Economic Development
Maximizing profits and employability through smarter practices.
Mantra: Less is more 3. Environmental Protection
Maximizing and conserving our natural resources.
Mantra: Leave it better than you found it
Each pillar directly impacts the other two. And when a solution satisfies all three pillars, that's when you have sustainability.
Oh so you think you know Sustainability? Name 17 of their songs.
If sustainability was an artist, it would have a collection of 3 albums (listed in the above section) with a total of 17 songs amongst its discography.
Each song with a different story from the same artist. Some sounding more similar and some sounding vastly different.
Yet, all coming from the same source.
In 2015, the United Nations General assembly created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a universal call to action.
These 17 goals outline all key areas needed to achieve sustainability by ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
"Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"
1. No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Good Health and Well-Being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
4. Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5. Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
10. Reduced Inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15. Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the partnership for sustainable development
When diving into these goals you will find that they are often connected.
Typically, the key to success with one goal will also involve addressing issues associated with another goal.
For more information, you can check out these goals more in-depth here: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html
How can just one individual play a role in solving these worldly challenges?
One person playing guitar has the ability to make beautiful music.
Now tack on three more people playing different instruments and you've got a collective band creating sounds that weren't possible with just the one person and a guitar.
The same concept is applied when living a sustainable lifestyle.
Both you and I play a major role in solving these worldly challenges by adding our own instrument and unique sound to the band.
This starts with using sustainable practices (the instruments) as an ideal model for a healthy lifestyle (the band) which contributes to a lasting impact (the music).
Living a lifestyle that is not only healthy for yourself, but also for those around you and for the planet you call home.
In Essence: Sustainability is a lifestyle. It involves a set of values and ethics that instill positive actions and positive outcomes.
Living a sustainable lifestyle forces us to think about our actions and the impacts of those actions. Once we are cognizant of these actions on a daily basis, then we start to notice things like how we treat each other or how we interact with our immediate environment.
"Only when we discover a problem can we truly begin to find a solution"
Why do some people value sustainability more than me?
A few factors come into play here.
Not knowing what sustainability is or that it is even an issue plays the biggest role.
The second major contributing factor is that you may not notice how it is affecting you.
Each of these factors may decrease the value sustainability has in your life.
And this is not your fault.
We are so displaced from the origins of our consumer goods that it makes sense why we don't show a sense of urgency and motivation in changing our current wasteful habits.
If you were to walk to a forest, cut down a large tree, haul that tree home, cut and size the lumber to your needs, and undergo the amount of time needed to construct a shed with this lumber, that shed will have more value to you because you experienced the entire lifecycle of that process in constructing the shed.
The same goes for cooking your own food.
You are much more likely to value the food you made after going through the process of creating it from scratch.
With even more value added if you experienced the process of growing and harvesting each ingredient used when crafting the meal.
This concept directly applies to sustainable living.
You may not truly understand the impact recycling can have until you visit a polluted beach, littered with plastic bottles and other waste. Or visiting a landfill and seeing firsthand the amount of waste created from just one person each week.
GreenStain is here to offer these perspectives and inspire you to make a significant difference.
Now I know what you're thinking…
Pictures of plastic around the neck of a sea turtle and leveled forests can seem depressing as hell.
But that's only because something inside you is telling you it's wrong.
Could you finish this post and go about your daily life without giving sustainability another thought?
Sure you could.
Would anything change?
Things only change if you make them change.
Does change require a large amount of work?
Not at all.
Just a difference in thinking and the will to do something.
So what exactly can you do to live a sustainable lifestyle?
Keep up with this blog and the latest news from GreenStain to find out.
We are here to offer the path of least resistance for you to create lasting positive change.
Sustainability is a win-win for everyone and the journey towards a sustainable future is not as difficult and taxing as it may seem.
You just need to know how to get there.
And that's where GreenStain comes in.