April 22nd marks the annual observance of Earth Day, but we want to help you commemorate your love for the environment and our planet every day! With our Celebrate Earth Day series, we’ll introduce you to the history of the event as well as practical ways to extend green and eco-friendly principles throughout everyday life.
Understanding the Benefits of Green Living and Sustainability
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is the idea that social development, economic development, and environmental protection are all bound together in how they affect human life. Likened to three pillars , the thinking goes that if you focus on just one pillar (whether it’s nurturing or damaging), the other two ultimately suffer. Consequently, for development that meets current needs to continue being effective in the future, all three pillars need to be kept balanced in order to work together.
This concept developed in the 1970’s as popular awareness grew over how our environmental and economic needs appeared to be at loggerheads. Economists and scientists eventually showcased how economic development could provide lasting and secure livelihoods if it minimized resource depletion, environmental degradation, cultural disruption, and social instability.
Is sustainability a realistic model? History is littered with examples, but one of the most pointed comes from the American Dust Bowl years. During that time, it was common for American farmers to plow and plant every square inch of their property to maximize production without using natural plants to buffer against the effects of wind or water erosion. When a drought began in the Midwest during the early 1930’s, crops began failing.
To make up for low crop yields, farmers would plow up even more land to plant. These agricultural practices enhanced the drought’s effect as winds stirred up huge dust storms that picked up the arid top soil and blew it all the way to Washington, DC. Eventually thousands of impoverished farm families abandoned farming and moved to cities.
Government, industry, and business acknowledge the importance of making their operations more sustainable and are working to incorporate such practices into their long-term planning. A recent business survey by Ernst and Young showed that 76 percent anticipated natural resource shortages would affect their businesses over the next three-to-five years and that 66% had already instituted some sustainability program. Samsung Electronics, Coca-Cola, L’Oréal, Johnson & Johnson and Nissan ranked among Forbes’ 100 Most Sustainable Companies in 2014.
While businesses and governments are developing large-scale sustainability programs, the real impact from sustainability comes when people adopt “green living” practices in their homes.
What is Green Living?
When most people think of green living, they conjure up the usual images of recycling bins, wind turbines, solar panels, and LED bulbs. While all these thing are some of the tools for green living, they don’t really explain what green living means. “Green living” is a lifestyle choice that seek to conserve and protect the Earth’s natural resources and its biological and cultural diversity.
You can support these goals by making careful, informed choices about how and what to eat, travel, purchase, build homes, and do business – right down to how you dispose of your garbage and waste.
How much of an impact does one American home have?
- The average American home used 10,932 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in one year back in 2014. That equals 5.67 tons of coal, which releases roughly over 15 tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
- The average family disposes of 6,351 pounds of trash annually — equivalent in weight to a large elephant.
- The average home produces up to 146,000 gallons of waste water yearly , about one-fourth from the toilet.
For an average American family of four over the course of 20 years, this adds up to a huge amount of waste. And that’s before you include your family’s waste with the 133,957,180 households of your friends and neighbors.
Adopting green living practices is an easy step to contribute to a more sustainable world. Chances are good that your family is already being more green, through recycling or energy conservation, and helping preserve our planet. But it’s never too late to try something new. So this Earth Day, adopt a new green living skill or practice for your home, such as composting kitchen scraps or learning how to conserve water or how to reduce your electricity usage.
Remember, we’re all in this together!
Stay Tuned for Part Three in the Celebrate Earth Day series: Practical Ways to Lower Your Carbon Footprint!