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Why Sustainability Matters in a Green Economy

Tue, Sep 22, 20

By Sofía González B.

Humans require natural resources for survival, as well as social activities, business and education. If natural resources run out or become scarce, accomplishing any of the activities mentioned would be difficult. This is why human activities, namely businesses, should be sustainable. 

But what is sustainability? There are numerous examples throughout human history where a specific culture has damaged, overused or miscalculated its resources, which in return affects its chances of survival. (1) Hence, sustainability is the ability of maintaining a balance with the natural systems while still remaining productive.

Therefore, "sustainability and sustainable development focuses on balancing that fine line between competing needs - our need to move forward technologically and economically, and the needs to protect the environments in which we and others live." (2)

green economy
Recycling is only a small part of sustainability.

So it's not just about the environment, it's also related to the long term effect these actions may have on humanity. These questions have been asked collectively, resulting in the "Three Pillars of Sustainability" created during the World Summit on Social Development in 2005 (3).

What Are the Three Pillars?

There are three main driving forces behind sustainability: economic development, social development and environmental protection. In the first point, the idea is to grow economically and generate employability while ensuring governments, business and people comply with sustainability guidelines.

This can be hard. Incentives can be individual or collective, and both take time to work. "Economic development is about giving people what they want without compromising quality of life, especially in the developing world." (4) Parallel to this is social development, which is in charge of fomenting awareness of the balance between human activity and nature. 

Such balance cannot be maintained without the appropriate education and awareness of the dangers of irreversible environmental damage. This also involves programmes and legislation with strong checks and balances that ensure people's wellness is protected.

green economy

Joyería Frutal uses discarded fruits to make beautiful jewelry.

The last pillar, environmental protection, goes beyond simply reducing waste or turning off the lights. It involves looking for new ways to protect ecosystems, improving air quality, finding new ways to reuse materials or promoting technology advancements that will eventually help protect the environment.

In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development organized these three pillars into 17 items (5) or goals that include gender equality, sustainable economic growth, better standards for education and more.

How Do Our Makers Work Sustainably?

Every single Maker aims at making their business, and their products, more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Yet achieving sustainability really depends on the type of business, their objectives and abilities - it takes time and thought. As George Siriano from Sibu Chocolate notes, this is a philosophy that should influence every step in the business.

Sibu Chocolate has mentioned the use of their own "sustainability filter", which includes recycling waste into compost and having a rainwater collection and purification system. Chocofrutas and Sueño y Arte por Jessi, on the other hand, part of their revenue to different causes.

Wagat Upcycling Lab has a different approach, as it is a plastic recycling factory. Their entire business model is based on using HDPE plastic and transforming it into decorative flower pots or other items. The directions to build plastic extruder and other equipment required are available online, as this is part of an international initiative that motivates people to recycle their own trash.

What Each Season Offers in a Green Economy

Many of our Makers create sustainable products by selecting only what's in season. Why is this beneficial? Seasonal consumption reduces the demand for out of season produce, which implies relying more on local fruits and vegetables. Using local produce also means supporting local farmers, an aspect that is exceptionally important for a green economy.

Gabriela Nowalsky, from Bibelot, began looking for fruits at Costa Rica farmers' fairs. These are widely known as being a great source of incredible, fresh produce at very low prices. Also, as you're buying directly from the producer, you're benefiting the local economy.

green economy

Seasonal produce is more nutritious and flavorful, and helps create more sustainable businesses.


Sources:

  1. “Sustainability”. Environmental Protection Agency. Link: https://www.epa.gov/sustainability
  2. “What is sustainable development?” Sustainable Development Commission. Link: http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/what-is-sustainable-development.html 
  3. “Future of Sustainability”. IUCN. Link: https://www.iucn.org/content/future-sustainability-have-your-say 
  4. “What is sustainability and why is it important?” Environmental Science. Link: https://www.environmentalscience.org/sustainability 
  5. Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development. Link:https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=400&nr=667&menu=1515 

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