By Sai Sailaja Seshadri

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is making sure that we are able to maintain and properly manage the resources that are essential to our survival, such as oxygen, water, food, chemicals etc.

Taken from Boston College's website:

"The Brutland Commission, formally known as the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED), has defined sustainable development in a report titled Our Common Future, "as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” "

A quick video that I found on youtube that explains the aspects of sustainability:

The three approaches to a more sustainable planet

Renewable: Using materials that are renewable reduces how much we rely on finite resources.

Conservation: If each person uses only the amount of a resource that is necessary, rather than wasting it, the environment will grow rapidly

Efficiency: The ability to use the least amount of something for the most productivity

Climate Change + Energy Conservation

Climate change is usually the first thing that comes to most peoples minds when we talk about sustainability because it is always interconnected with energy conservation, one of the biggest aspects of a sustainable planet. With temperatures rising and too much ice melting around the world as a result of the pollution caused by several factors, especially non-renewable energy resources, global warming has become a very real issue in the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea-level rise due to climate change will cause millions of people to be displaced by the year 2080.

Waste Management + Recycling

Landfills are overloaded with waste each year, and as we keep consuming products as a developed country, this issue is just getting worse. Zero Waste is a philosophy that is trying to encourage people to redesign the cycle of resources in a way that almost everything we produce can be recycled and reused.

The official definition for Zero Waste, as created by the Zero Waste Alliance (ZWA) is as follows:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

The goal is to make the earth much more sustainable in several different ways: less waste not only means more free land, it also means less pollution and less injuries and deaths of animals - for example, waste that ends up in the ocean can severely harm and often times even kill different species in the water and reducing the amount of garbage produced can decrease this issue.


The amount of biodiversity in an area shows the sustainability: the more biodiversity, the more sustainable that specific place is because it means there are are more species, and thus more genes, in that ecosystem, which in turns allows for creation and transfer of more resources. This is because a higher number of species allows for more efficient life cycles, such as for example the water or nitrogen cycles. It also allows for a more complex food web, and also for proper evolution as offspring is created.


Pollution is probably what links all these other aspects to one another - it is what is caused by waste and energy and resource consumption, it affects climate change and biodiversity and overall, it is the first issue that needs to be battled before we can be a sustainable planet.

Resource Use

The use of resources can basically be all of these other aspects combined. From energy to animals that are used as food, all of it is resource use - and it is the depletion of resources as well as the pollution and waste caused by it that stunts the sustainability that we are trying to achieve.

How can we change this?

  • Rely more on renewable resources as they harm the planet less
  • Decrease usage of aerosol propellants
  • Decrease burning of fossil fuels - carpool, condemn factories that use extreme amounts of finite energy etc.
  • Increase biodiversity and population of species by 1) killing less animals each year for food 2) reduce habitat loss caused by deforestation and other human choices 3) raise awareness to stop poaching
  • Try not to create as much waste on a daily basis - pack reusable lunches, stop using plastic water bottles, recycle more etc.

How are all these aspects connected?

Similar to the way that sustainability ties in to social, economic and environmental factors, it connects to every single of these specific environmental factors because of the fact that in an ecosystem, all of these (climate change, energy, resource use, waste management, pollution and biodiversity) are all interconnected and a proper balance of them all is required to keep the environment in good shape. A healthy planet would be one where we do not have as many climate change issues, and where we use energy properly and understand the scarcity of it - this will in turn help decrease pollution and increase biodiversity, and with proper resource use, we will hopefully have more recyclable items and less waste.


  • Each hour, 25,000,000 plastic bottles are thrown away
  • Out of 62 million newspapers printed each day, 44 million will be thrown away - this is the equivalent of throwing away 500,000 trees each week
  • A person living in America uses approximately 15x as much energy as someone in a developing country
  • A bath takes about 60 gallons of water
  • Just paper and packaging materials account for about 31% of all waste in the country


"Sustainability Information | EPA Research | EPA." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 02 June 2015.

"Energy and Climate Change." N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2015.

"Boston College." Know Your Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 June 2015.

"Climate Change .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform." Climate Change .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 June 2015.

"CREATING A PROSPEROUS AND INCLUSIVE FUTURE WITHOUT WASTE." Welcome to the Zero Waste Alliance. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2015.