I’ve been involved in a “green business” for about 20 years now and I have seen and heard just about everything as it relates to the definition of what “green is” and why it’s important. Early on I thought it was very complex, then I thought it was easy to understand, then complex again and now I’m back to it’s easy. Let me explain the easy part.
Sustainability, what is it? The best definition of Sustainability is to simply look at everything the way mother nature does. Most Everything she does is a cycle without pollution. Trees and the seasons in the northern hemisphere are an example. In summer, the trees grow and get bigger, in the fall the leave fall and hit the ground. In the winter the leaves begin to decay into nutrients and in the spring these nutrients are used to help the tree grow again.
Why is being sustainable important? North American Indians understood that we only are here on earth for a short time. They believed they should leave the Earth they way found it, so future generations will have the same natural resources. Beginning with the industrial revolution, more recent generations have not had the same view of the earth. Since then we have done the opposite, taking raw materials from her like they were unlimited and polluting our air and water along the way. Think about the earth’s population growth and it is easy to understand why all of us need to think about how we can be more sustainable. There simply are not enough raw materials on the this earth for future generations. Toss in the importance of clean air and water and I think we all realize we have to do things differently.
How can we be more sustainable (“green”)? let’s look at the 3 R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Understand these 3 words as they relate to sustainability and you’ll be much more effective in your desire to make a difference.
Reduce is the biggie. If you don’t use something there is absolutely no negative effect on the Earth. No mining of raw materials. No pollution when mining. No pollution when using. No pollution when you dispose of it. Riding a bicycle to work is a good example. Also, a new phenomenon is minimalism. An example of this is living in a 1,000 sf house instead of a 2,000 sf house.
Reuse is also big. If something has already been made, then there is no impact on the Earth when you decide to reuse it. Buying refurbished office furniture is a good example of this. Using your own reusable water bottle is another.
Recycle is good and much better than not buying something that has been recycled, but clearly ranks a distant 3rd compared to Reduce and Reuse. When you buy something that has recycled content in it, understand that it has still been manufactured just like new products. Recycle, however is a great way to lessen what we take in raw materials and also helps with the amount of waste we put in a landfill.