‘Sustainability’ – What does it really mean?

In 1983 the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was urgently called upon by the United Nations to chair a special, independent commission to address the major challenges the world was facing.

Through many years of research and looking into living standards through industrialisation, it seemed many countries were still struggling and living in extreme poverty. This showed that due to the pace and cost of the economy, ecological health and social equity did not lead to long-lasting prosperity.

After identifying that change needed to be made worldwide to harmonize ecology with prosperity, the ‘Brundtland Commission’ released his final report in 1987 named, ‘Our Common Future’ – which known too many, famously defined ‘sustainable development’ as:

‘The ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

Which he later explains that through careful and improved management of both technology and social organisation, there is a big opportunity for a new era of economic growth.

Fast forward to 2019 and we are in a climate crisis, all running around like headless chickens drinking through metal straws instead of plastic and standing on tubes protesting…

This to most isn’t necessarily being sustainable or practicing sustainability in the most productive way, as there are much better ways we can be using our time and making even a little change here and there.

On a positive note, showing best practice and a sense of hope for ‘sustainable development’ which we now seem to have is national and international targets political leaders have recently set, which includes net-zero by 2050, CSR, environmental and sustainable policies.

Through setting such targets and deadlines has truly knuckled down on the big players who have a very large environmental impact, such as universities, councils, restaurant chains, shopping centres and more.

When these sorts of organisations look at how they could be more sustainable, this could be by looking at their carbon footprint, use of electricity, waste management, water usage and more – all things that most people take for granted or don’t even think about when it comes down to how it affects the planet and global warming.

Brundtland Commission also mentions in his report how back in 1987 there was already dryland turning into deserts, more than 11 million hectares of forests destroyed yearly and the burning of fossil fuels putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – which he states how this ‘greenhouse effect’ could potentially increase the average global temperatures by early the next century, which sadly and worryingly, here we currently are…

 ‘We are the environment. The world is literally one biological process. The trees are our lungs. Look at the Amazon River system next to a human cardiovascular system, look at corals or trees and look at our lungs, you literally cannot tell the difference. They’re the same. So when we destroy our environment, we’re effectively destroying ourselves.’

Ian Somerhalder


So what can we, you, I, do to be more sustainable and ensure an acceptable and happy future for our families, children, as well as a healthy planet?

Let’s start with business owners, as you can do a lot more than I’m sure you would expect…

For instance:

  • Is everyone in your workplace taking the most appropriate type of transport to get into work? Does everyone who drives in NEED to drive in? If not, introduce a cycle-to-work scheme.

  • Could you find a way to go paperless?

  • Have you thought about your water usage per day? Which then turns into a lot of water waste.

  • Encourage staff to turn off the taps when they’re not using them.

  • Ever thought about how many times your toilets are flushed and just how many litres of drinkable water is flushed down the drain? This is where the Propelair toilet could be considered, by using just 1.5 litres of water instead of the standard 9 litres (as well as reducing carbon by up to 80%).

  • Lighting – do you have the most efficient lightbulbs in place around your building?

The similar changes can be made for each individual in their day-to-day life:

  • Turn off the taps when you are not using them.

  • Cut back on plastic – get re-usable bags for your shopping.

  • Turn off plugs and the electricity when they are not in use.

  • Could you walk to your local shop instead of using your car? (Think of the positive health benefits of this too!)

Together we can truly make a difference, but first you need to realise that this isn’t other people’s problem, this is just as much yours and if we don’t do something about this soon then we are in deep trouble.

The changes you make will benefit you and everyone in the near-future, as well as (most importantly) long-term.

The time to act is now!