Green vs. Sustainability

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?

6 comments to Green vs. Sustainability

  • Good point about the difference between green and sustainable. The US congress is looking into legislation aimed at regulating further the marketing of products as “green”. There is a lot of misinformation fed to consumers who buy products they think are being manufactured in a green and sustainable manner when in fact they are not. Living in a major city like Phoenix I don’t believe it is possible to live a sustainable lifestyle. Someday my goal is to retire to a more rural setting and live off the grid!

  • I have to be honest with this one I haven’t been as into helping and preserving the world as I should. I just buy what I need and don’t pay any attention to how it effects people. This is something I have to change. I need to be aware of the footprint I am leaving behind.

  • I never really thought that much about the difference between the two terms before. Thanks for clearing things. It also gets me thinking more about what it means to be sustainable. I think I’ve tried to make the occasional green choice and I’d say that is on the up-trend but I am still a far ways away from living sustainably!

  • I keep thinking about sustainability. Gardening using compost helps, but there are ways to garden even more sustainably. You can find these methods online with a little bit of search.

    I love that many moms pass on their maternity clothes to friends as they outgrow them. Who wants to invest much money in a maternity wardrobe anyway? Passing on to friends is a lot more acceptable to some people than buying from resale shops. I love resale shops for getting great value plus using fewer resources.

    A big challenge comes from all the electronics. Often manufactures in places without many envrironmental laws, they pollute at every step of the process. And recycling them gets to be a challenge.

  • Thanks for the breakdown. I work in a career very focused on sustainability, and when we give layman tours, there is a huge communication issue for green vs sustainable. I might try to work some of this into my blurb, or at least use it as a starting point to explain the distinction.

  • [...] Sustainable Personal Finance wrote about green versus sustainability. [...]

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>