Hitting Sustainability Dead Center

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     We all have an idea of what sustainability is.  Generally, sustainability refers to the use of any resource in such a way that the resource will remain available in perpetuity.  While this concept is easy enough to grasp, there are subtleties of interpretation that can create divisions to our sustainable goals.  Are our energy sources sustainable?  Are our food sources sustainable?  Is a business sustainable?  Is a lifestyle sustainable?  Sustainability can be analyzed on a small scale where we examine our personal choices, and how those choices may affect our future.  It can also be applied community wide as we create businesses and organizations that work together; creating a better (or worse) place for our children.  And larger still, issues of sustainability can operate on a world-wide scale over generations.  When framed from this perspective, we see that sustainability needs to apply to the world as a whole, the community, as well as the individual.  Without hitting all aspects of sustainability, we won’t be having the greatest impact.

     A great example of sustainable programs that hit all three aspects of sustainable reach comes from GreenEmpowerment, a non-profit from Portland, Oregon.  Green Empowerment works with communities around the globe to create solutions that not only benefit individuals by solving every day problems, but also reduce humanity’s carbon footprint by being green powered.  For example, in 2015 Green Empowerment worked to install over 20 water systems in the Philippines.  Included in these water systems are 20 ram pumps which require zero electricity to operate.  These systems achieve all three factors of sustainability by freeing up the time of individuals who would have otherwise been hauling water, providing reliable and safe drinking water to a community, and not contributing to global emissions through the use of pumps that use fossil fuels.

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     It is important that we look for ways that our lives can be sustainable, this means freeing up time and being efficient with our pursuits.  It is also important that our communities are looking to solve problems that will ensure our way of life can continue.  But some of the most difficult choices can come when we must think about the sustainability of our world.  Sometimes this means making choices that don’t bring us the most immediate benefit.  Green Empowerment is helping communities and their members make choices that not only benefit in the short term, but the long term as well.

Start Thrifting, Stop Hurting the Environment

Thrifting is a recent fad among millennials and college students. Scouring second hand stores for vintage tops and retro accessories isn’t uncommon in my social circle. It feels like you're stepping back in time, and finding amazing 70’s bell bottoms for $2.00 is hard to beat. But not only is the activity fun, thrifting actually helps the environment. 

Image courtesy of putthison.org

According to an article from The Gaia Movement, “On average 1 lb. of clothes that is sold as second hand clothes save 5.9 lb. of CO2.” This means that if every American citizen made the decision to buy one pound of used clothing, instead of one pound of new clothing, the earth would save 1.5 billion lb of CO2! It’s such a simple act, yet so few people are doing it. Many consider used clothing “gross,” “dirty,” or “old.” But perhaps if they knew the huge environmental benefits, they’d change their minds. 

And this doesn’t stop at clothing. Buying used books for college courses, used kitchenware for your apartment, and even used cars helps cut down on our use of earth’s resources, and slows the process of human pollution. In fact, some news sources claim that buying a used car is more environmentally friendly than buying a hybrid. The reason being that it takes a huge amount of energy to produce automobiles. According to Wired News a new Toyota Prius “has consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it reaches the showroom.” This is a result of the amount of CO2 that is released into the atmosphere from the production of the vehicle. 

So if you’re looking for a simple way to start saving the environment, look no further than a thrift store. And don’t just shop at them, donate yourself! If you have an extra Anatomy textbook lying around that you never use, donate it, give it to someone that needs it. It means that one less book will be printed, one less tree will be cut down, and one less pound of CO2 will be omitted into the air.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com