Sustainable or unsustainable that is the question?

Of course we have to be sustainable, that goes without saying! Anything that is unsustainable is not sustainable in the long run, that’s what we hear. But in essence, it’s not that simple. We must most likely be prepared to change the way we consume and think more about the consequences of our lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean things are getting worse, just different.

There are many pieces to the sustainability puzzle, some of which are easy to fix and some of which you may already be doing today. Maybe even without thinking. Some are more difficult and require much more of us. But I believe that you should rejoice in the steps you manage to take and I think you should too! even if you cheat a little sometimes.

Not black and white but a sliding scale.

Whether our consumption and lifestyle is sustainable or unsustainable is not a black and white issue. It is a question with many nuances and not always easy to find the right answer.

Petrol, diesel or electricity? Or something completely different?

A clear example is electric cars. Electric cars have no exhaust emissions! When I drive, it does not affect the atmosphere and should therefore be considered sustainable and environmentally friendly, at least when compared to cars that run on fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel. And it’s true that they have no direct environmental impact when driven. But it is important that the electric car is charged with electricity produced in an environmentally friendly way. So that no greenhouse gases are emitted when you charge your car, so it doesn’t come from an oil-fired power plant or something. And compared to a petrol or diesel car, they are much more environmentally friendly.

It’s not just the fuel that affects the environment.

On the other hand, the production of the car requires energy and also materials that may not be produced in a sustainable way. What is clear is that the cars contain materials such as metal of various kinds, all of which have an impact on the environment when they are produced. Some affect the environment more and others less. But they all affect the environment anyway. Some of the leading car brands are “competing” to use recycled materials in the production of their cars. And that will be another step in the right direction.

Something more sustainable is better than nothing.

I prefer to make my judgements based on this not entirely black and white view, and believe that it is better to drive an electric car than a petrol car as it does not emit as much greenhouse gases. And that is perhaps the most important short-term effort. But we need to move towards much more recycled material in our manufacturing. It is easy to see that metal extracted from mines must be a finite resource. The whole globe is not made of metal, but if it were, it becomes clear that if we turn it into metal and make cars out of it, we’d end up with no globe left to drive on, just a bunch of cars. Everything we extract from the earth’s crust is a limited resource and therefore not sustainable in the long run, or so I tend to think.

And at the same time, time matters – different problems have different degrees of urgency. Here I rely on what the research says and sometimes I make my own best possible judgements.

We all have a responsibility, but there are long chains.

My view is that we, you and I as consumers, have a responsibility, even if each of us has a small part to play. After all, all our consumption and our way of life is the basis for market demand.

Even for consumption that is business buying from business, it is done to satisfy some of our needs or wants in the next step. Sometimes there have been so many links that we don’t see the connections.
For example, one company manufactures and supplies parts that are sold to a company that assembles the parts into a machine and delivers it to another company that puts the machine into a large dump truck that is used to drive stone to a large crusher where the process of refining pellets begins. These are delivered to a steel-making smelter. The steel is further processed into large custom plates and sent to another company that bends the plate and sends it to another company that makes a sink out of it and sells it to a wholesaler who delivers to a shop where we can buy the sink we want.

Of course, companies are responsible for their own production and how they manufacture their products and services. They are also under pressure from authorities to ensure that they comply with legislation and regulations. They are also pressured by demand, and we and other companies in the market are the ones who are providing that demand and competition.

Not just environment and climate.

And besides, it’s not just about environmental sustainability or not. We must also move towards economically and socially sustainable development. And much of what we are doing in the world now lacks sustainability in more of these areas, and the systems that we have built up in society are not sustainable in all of these respects either. Much of our society is based on economic growth and much of that growth is about developing new products, improving products and making production more efficient. So that companies can get a return on the capital they put into the business. It is this economic growth that also contributes to our being able to have a pension, that we can get a return on our savings. And so far it has been based on the idea that we will have increased consumption. But we now know that in the rich parts of the world we consume far too much while again other parts do not have the resources to consume as much as their share of possible production would be. These measures, if you look at them, are very complex and quite theoretical. But again my starting point is that it’s not black and white. I think that if I can reduce my consumption or consume in a more sustainable way, I will contribute to a more sustainable world. Although there are other ways to consume that would be even more sustainable. But instead of going all the way in one step, whatever that step might be(?), it’s better to take the step I can than to take no step at all.

So again steps in the right direction are important to take even if I can’t take all the steps I should.

Steps you can take are therefore important that you take! Then we move together towards a more sustainable society and ourselves towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

And as the old Chinese proverb says, “even a long journey begins with a step”. And it’s urgent that we start taking them.

A newsletter with  inspiration and tips for a sustainable lifestyle?

Sustainable is enjoyable!