Ours is an age of hyper-consumerism and we are a generation of ravenous consumers. We aren’t taught to regenerate, reuse or recycle. However, this system is completely unsustainable, and current events in our world have demonstrated that only too well. Not only are we all – especially us city-dwellers – very dependent on global supply chains for most of our wants and needs, but we are all on a collision course to resource scarcity due to the pace of our collective consumption. Can we change our ways to ensure that sufficient natural resources are available for current and future generations? Can we make it a point to not harm the environment beyond what it can handle? Low waste living is sustainable living. Low waste living emphasizes continuity into the future.
What is Low Waste Living?
Low waste living is the concept of minimizing our use of the earth’s resources through choices made by us. Sustainable low waste living means reducing energy consumption to the barest minimum; leaving little or no “carbon footprint” on the planet, and limiting the destruction of the earth’s environment.
The framework of low waste living is a meshed interaction of three parts: environmental, social, and economic. These components act in mutual exclusiveness to actualizing an enduring approach to living.
Factors for sustainable low waste living include two broad categories, of sustainable design and sustainable development:
What is Sustainable Design?
Sustainable design, or eco design, is an aspect of sustainable living that caters to environmental sustainability. Eco design postulates that most problems confronting the environment is man-made and can be handled through innovations. It refers to the act of making utilities like buildings, vehicles, artifacts etc. with an aim to conserve the earth’s original resources. Its goals are to maximize strategies and designs for non-destructive impact on the planet, while limiting negative impacts of human practices on the environment. Sustainable design aims to reduce the law of diminishing returns on human investments, but seeks to proffer solution for conservation and sustainability.
Pollution and Sustainable Design
Climate change happens from the impact of energy production and consumption at different rates. In sustainable design, these pollutions are grossly minimized. Rather than make products that detracts from environmental natural resources, eco design seeks to design ecosystem-friendly consumer products, through processes that will not release polluting by-products. Waste disposal is economically managed to curtail pollution and save costs. Therefore, the result of sustainable design is evident not only in positive environmental impacts, but also in socio-economic values. Additionally, the design recycles waste naturally, preserving nature even more.
Examples of Eco Design
- Consumption of less energy for production of rich energy
- Designing long-lasting rather than temporary products
- Deploying recycling in manufacturing processes
- Production of more biodegradable goods than synthetic non-biodegradable products
- Design for renewable resources rather than terminal resources
- Thinking sustainability in engineering and architectural designs
What is Sustainable Development?
Sustainable development is the technology and development processes for achieving sustainable living. The idea of sustainable development sparked industrial revolution across societies. This birthed some of the socio-economic systems and environmental models witnessed today.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, the United Nations mapped Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to stop inequalities, hunger, poverty, lack of education and to ensure good health, prosperity, peace, justice, clean environment, industry and infrastructural development by 2030, with the aim of conserving the planet and its future inhabitants. Nations have since adopted these goals with set guidelines for attaining them, which although legally non-binding are still signs of intent by the governments. Social and economic movements geared towards achieving these goals have also grown and gaining relevance by the day. These goals are interconnected, and therefore progress in attaining one results in a major milestone for another.
Sustainable Low Waste Living Made Simple
How can we as individuals practice incorporating sustainable living? It’s not easy by any means, but it can be simple to plan out. There are many broad ways to practice sustainable living:
1 // Advocate for a Low Waste Lifestyle
If we can campaign and advocate for social, economic, and environmental cost reduction in everyone’s daily choices, then we should. This is, of course, apart from following the low waste lifestyle in our own lives! Advocacy could be done through social media campaigns, social movements, and policymaking in leadership. Encourage your friends and family to go organic with crops and livestock. With organic farming, there is no use of synthetics like insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides. Without these chemicals, micro and macro lives on earth are more likely to survive, and the ecological food chain will be sustained for upcoming generations.
2 // Grow Your Own Food
You have better control of your choices when you have a say in the way your food is grown. Here, an aspect of sustainable living includes growing your own food organically. Not everyone can do this, but that’s where community gardens come into play. Where possible, choose home-grown food over processed/synthesized , factory-produced food. Food wastage is limited when you grow them yourself.
Planting trees and forests is also a great project to advocate. The more forests there are, the easier it would be to mop up excess environmental carbon dioxide that leads to global warming, improve biodiversity, and preserve the planet.
3 // Switch to Renewable Energy
Renewable energy derives from renewable resources, and ideally cannot be ‘used up.’ Limiting the use of fossil fuels (derived from crude oil, natural gas, etc.) and imbibing the choice of renewable energy help to prevent global warming. If you can fix solar panels in your home, do that. You may even be able to sell excess power to the grid from the electricity generated by your solar panels.
The most commonly used form of renewable energy in developing countries in recent times include solar energy and hydropower for electricity generation. More advanced countries have utilized other forms of renewable resources, such as wind energy, thermal energy and biomass energy. These options have continued to be researched and improved upon to utilize cleaner energy sources for a safer environment and to sustain resources for future generations. When the environment is preserved, the economic cost of fuel combustion is eliminated and there is improved social interaction between communities and the earth.
4 // Drive Less
Use public transport as much as possible. Bicycle locally if it’s an option for you. Minimize your air travel as much as you can. If you have to travel by plane for business, talk to your company and request them to offset the air miles through carbon offsetting. It isn’t ideal, but it’s better than not doing it.
5 // Plan for a Low Waste Home
Try to plan all your activities so that you are producing minimum waste. Incorporate low waste habits into your kitchen, your bathroom, and more. Assume resources are already scarce (and, in many parts of the world, they are), and only throw away stuff that cannot be reused or recycled. And what you do need to throw away, make sure you dispose of it responsibly!
Limitations of Sustainable Living
There’s, unfortunately, only so much we can do as individuals. Even if only some of the humans on this planet live a sustainable life, it would make a difference. However, it requires careful planning, because it takes so much more effort than to just live a careless lifestyle. For example, sustainable living has little to no provisions for emergency occurrences. Unforeseen occurrences can easily overwhelm us and push us into unsustainable practices. Sustainable living majorly takes cognizance of planned activities and targets.
An example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the world by surprise. Communities globally have been thrown off by the impact of the pandemic. Considering scientists are predicting more pandemics in our future, aside from other climate change-related disasters, we really need to prepare and re-evaluate our approaches to sustainable living – which currently very much depends on the stable status quo.
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