I think the S word is one of the most misunderstood and misused words of this age. It seems to have this unusual combination of being a real buzz word for political parties, organisations and business’ but also to be thrown around loosely without much weight or intent behind it. I want to understand myself what it actually means and how that applies to individuals like us.

Ok, so lets start with a good, reliable Oxford dictionary definition:

’Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.’

For me, the key word is balance but I also love the way Alan AtKisson describes it in his book ‘Sustainability Is For Everyone’;

For this is what sustainability means, at its most basic level: a way of life – for individual people, families, communities, companies, nations, even our whole global civilisation – that does not seem inevitably destined for crash. A way of life where our needs and wants as human beings, and natures needs for care and balance, are not in conflict with each other. A way of life where our resources are managed well, and the big, obvious risks are avoided. A way of life that can continue for generations, providing everyone on this Earth with a chance of a good life, while contributing to the greater good’

This definition perfectly articulates what it is, who it applies to and what the outcome needs to be.

The sustainability industry has historically been fulfilled by passionate professionals striving to get through to organisations and society with their research and over the years, it has grown into a huge talking point for world leaders and business. You can see this through the introduction of Sustainable Management job roles and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSP) featuring high up on many companies priorities. That in itself is a sign that we are headed in the right direction but I think we should start looking at sustainability as normal, standard practise as opposed to an optional add-on if we have the time and resources. This can seem like an intimidating task but lets break this down together…

Small Sustainability

These factors are all to do with YOU. My best recommendation here is to ask questions. Loads of them!

The S word applies to every aspect of our lives so why don’t you start right from when you first get up? The majority of us have a morning routine so think about your day-to-day regularities, and ask yourself the following:

+ Do I need to shower for that long?

+ Do I need to use that much shampoo?

+ Where does this food come from?

+ Is it a sustainable source?

+ Am I boiling too much water for one cup of tea?

+ Could I walk or bike to work?

+ Have I just boiled the kettle twice within half an hour?

Thinking this way can be reaaaally overwhelming so my advice is to breakdown your day but in manageable amounts. Have one week where you focus on the first three hours of your day. When you are more content with this part, move on to the next few hours and if you find there is something you just can’t improve then don’t get hung up on it, move on and with experience you will find solutions.

Big Sustainability

Thinking about the big picture can seem so vast, and is often best left up to politicians and businesspeople. But there are plenty of decisions that we make in our lives that can have a positive impact. Some things to think about are:

+ Are you investing in long-lasting products whose parts can be repaired?

+ Could I install solar panels to reduce my reliance on traditional energy sources?

+ Could I exchange my car for an electric or hybrid engine

+ What do I know about the companies I am buying my products from? How do they source, manufacture and ship their goods?

+ Can I help inform others in my community about eco-friendly choices they have?

If ‘big sustainability’ still feels out of reach, I’d like to introduce to you some terminology that has stuck with me named, the ‘Circular Economy’. This is the understanding that in our world of resources with expiry dates, a truly sustainable economy is one that creates products that can be used for more than one purpose through sharing, reusing or recycling. This is what we need to work towards in as many aspects of our lives as possible and its a very simple analogy to keep in mind, applicable to both small and big sustainability.

What we need to avoid is a ‘Linear Economy’ where products are more disposable and end up as waste.

I find this way of thinking very simple and it is something I constantly consider before committing to a purchase. Arguably even if big sustainability does seem difficult to tackle, this is where we have the power. Every time we buy something, we’re making a conscious or unconscious decision. We have a fantastic opportunity to become more educated and thoughtful in what we spend our money on and it can really make a difference!

The good news is that we have the control to ask these questions and make these changes! You can start with the smallest of gestures and work your way up until its part of your daily life. Ask your friends to join you on the small sustainable challenge, talk about it, share experiences and see the change together. I’d love to hear from you so please get in touch on Facebook, Instagram or email [email protected]!

Thanks for reading.