Many of us like to think that we are “being green” and living in a sustainable manner. However, just because something is considered “green,” doesn’t mean that it is sustainable. There is a bit of a difference between green and sustainability.
Understanding that difference can help you recognize that some of your choices may not be completely sustainable, and help you work toward living in a way that is a little more sustainable.
What is Green?
A “green” product is often one that is labeled that for marketing purposes. These are products that may help you reduce your impact on the environment, but they may not actually be sustainable. A good example is the use of paper products from recycled materials. These are green, in that they come from already-used sources, and they might reduce your impact on the environment, but they aren’t actually very sustainable since most paper products are still meant to be disposable.
There are a number of green options out there that help you reduce your daily impact on the environment, from the type of car you drive to the products you use in your home.
How Do You Live Sustainably?
Even though you might make a green choice, you might not be living sustainably. Sustainability is about ensuring that your lifestyle is capable of supporting itself without depleting resources. Sustainable products come from completely renewable sources, or from resources that are harvested in a way that doesn’t permanently damage the surrounding ecosystem.
Living sustainably means looking at the total impact that something has on the environment. Where do the materials come from? How is the product transported to the store where you buy it? Can the resources be replenished later? What sort of resources are you using up in order to keep the product functioning?
One of the interesting paradoxes in green vs. sustainable is the plug-in electric car or hybrid car. Such a car is green from the standpoint that it doesn’t directly pollute the air as much. The electric motor means emissions are cut. However, you have to reconsider the actual sustainability. The car might be partially made from eco-friendly materials, with eco-friendly processes, but how was it shipped to the dealership? And, when you plug in the car, is the electricity used to power it coming from a coal-fired electric plant?
In many cases, a green option may not be completely sustainable. Instead, you might find that there are still resources being depleted, and not replaced, even though the impact might be less than what would be seen with a “non-green” option. Many people use freecycling or shop at thrift stores in order to help increase their sustainability, and avoid using up more resources.
The Reality of Sustainable Living
Most of us find it difficult to live completely sustainable lives. Even though I try to reduce my overall impact on the environment, I am aware that my lifestyle isn’t totally sustainable. I use products that make uses of non-renewable resources, and sometimes my choices have an impact, even though I try to offset them, and I do take some steps to live in a more sustainable manner.
What do you think? Is it possible to live a sustainable lifestyle?