Welcome to Sustainability 101.
We are breaking down key terms and definitions in the sustainability space and translating them into easy-to-understand, digestible talking points.
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Key Concepts & Terms
*credit to New Oxford American Dictionary for definitions
sustainability | səˌstānəˈbilədē |
the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level
Over time, this word has gained popularity with mainstream media and become a buzzword for many industries. Sustainable fashion, sustainable marketing, sustainable business growth, sustainable architecture, sustainable sports, even sustainable socks. What is essential to understand about this term is its implications for us, the planet, and future generations. In the ever-expanding lexicon of “sustainable buzzwords,” the most important concept tends to get overshadowed, environmental sustainability.
- avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance (New Oxford American Dictionary)
Think of it this way: your choices today will determine what kind of world you will leave to your children, your pets, your grandchildren, their grandchildren’s children, your twice removed second cousin’s cute pet bunny, and most importantly, the reincarnated baby Groot. Will that adorable baby tree inherit an Earth where he cannot even plant his roots to grow or one where whole forests of Groots flourish.
global warming | ˈɡlōbəl ˈwôrmiNG |
a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants.
Or, all the cow farts in the world combined together to make a fart bomb and increased the Earth’s temperature. While seemingly wildly off base, cow farts and most types of livestock flatulence and feces contain methane. Methane is one of a group of gases called greenhouse gases (GHGs) which work to trap heat within Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases prevent heat from bouncing back to space as it naturally does, producing the greenhouse effect.
Global warming has always occurred in Earth’s history, but what concerns us now is anthropogenic global warming, or the impact of human consumption of fossil fuels on the speed and intensity of Earth’s heating.
Now you may be thinking, “I’d love a beach vacay” or, “sunbathing, here I come!” While normal fluctuations in global temperature may help you get those aesthetic beach pics, the rapid warming caused by burning fossil fuels is anything but normal. Humans are impacting the environment in unprecedented ways and the rapid changes are affecting the natural ecological processes (e.g., ice reflects heat out of the atmosphere and back into space) that would normally balance such changes.
materials or substances such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain.
Water. Earth. Air. Fire. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the fire nation—Not those, but yes, kind of those. Natural resources refer to materials we harvest, utilize, and rely on to fuel all types of lifestyles. From industrialized societies that dominate the seas and land with massive farms, overfishing, and factories to more rural nations that rely on wood for energy and shelter and the land for sustenance. Even your i-Everything is made from natural resources.
energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power
Renewable resources: the AA battery to natural resources’ AAA. Renewable resources are like a battery pack; they can be used multiple times and still recharge quickly. These include wind, solar, geothermal, and more, but they all have a rechargeable battery. Non-renewable resources, like coal, oil, and groundwater are less exciting because their quantities are limited and they take a looooong time to replenish – much longer than it takes to recharge your iPhone, even when it’s dead.
ecological footprint /ˌiːkəlɒdʒɪkl ˈfʊtprɪnt/
The impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources.
After talking about how our home’s food gets eaten, and in some cases restocked naturally, what makes our house hotter (and no, turning on the AC does not solve this problem), and what type of house we’d like to pass on to our baby Groot, it’s time to talk about how our houses, communities, and lifestyles impact Earth, either through farts or other methods?
Your ecological footprint measures how much natural resources you use in your daily life and how much land your lifestyle requires. Understanding which aspects of your lifestyle have the greatest footprint can help us make changes to reduce our fart-print on the Earth.
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies (EPA).
There are over seven billion people on this planet. Seven billion different personalities, races, religions, nationalities, who all grow up here, smile here, fart here, and live here. What happens to our home is a concern to all of us and everyone should have a voice in the discussion. Environmental justice (EJ) is a movement, concept, term, and more that works to make sure we all get our voices heard in this global debate.
Changes in our environment do not equally impact all regions and some countries, races, and economic classes are more severely impacted than others. EJ strives to help these communities, give them a voice and platform, and fix the structural and systemic barriers that subject these communities to a whole host of inequalities.