What Is Environmental Sustainability and Why Is It Important?

Environmental sustainability is something we all need to survive, thrive into the future and enjoy life along the way. 

The term ‘environment sustainability’ takes everything in the living and non-living world into account. It’s about access to clean, breathable air, fresh water and food, as well as considering the countless interactions and ecosystems that exist.

In order to get access to the necessities of life, we need to live in a dependable and sustainable environment.

What’s happening to our environment?

With the very recent spike (in evolutionary terms) of human population growth, we’re witnessing environmental and climate breakdown. Humans are also overseeing widespread biodiversity loss with many species threatened by extinction.

There’s only so many forests you can cut down, seas you can pollute and ecosystems you can disrupt before things start to become problematic for the environment and the natural world at large.

Yes, the environment and atmosphere do naturally change over time through geological factors and organisms learn to adapt. However, this change usually occurs over millennia. The human-caused rapid change the world has seen has taken place over less than 200 years. This is thought to be 170 times faster than natural forces.

With this in mind, we need environmental sustainability for us and our future generations to carry on living. 

What exactly does environmental sustainability mean? 

woodland and bluebells

To achieve full environmental sustainability humans need to adapt the way we’ve become accustomed to living. Reliance on fossil fuels and infinite resource use cannot continue if we want our future offspring to thrive. 

The big aim of environmental sustainability is to improve the overall quality of life without causing future damage to the natural world. 

As life on Earth exists in ecosystems, an negative impact on one species or part of the system will have knock on effects elsewhere. Some species will benefit and perhaps dominate, whereas others will not.

To live in a sustainable environment we’re striving to create balance between humans, nature and the thin atmosphere in which we all exist. 

The key to achieving this is to live in a way where we are not depleting finite natural resources nor significantly impacting the world through our outputs. To live sustainably is to live in a responsible manner that’s in balance with everything around us. 

This is what I believe to be environmental sustainability. 

The definition of Environmental Sustainability

According to the UN, environmental sustainability can be defined as:

“The practice of interacting with our planet responsibly. By doing so, we will avoid depleting resources and therefore provide a basis that will support and supply the needs of future generations.”

United Nations

Although it may not be accepted by every single person and environmentalist, this UN definition is the current global standard. 

Some people would like the definition to go further. Over the years it has been modified to accommodate wider needs. Thinking flexibly as our society has developed, there are other sustainability factors to consider such as mental and physical well-being, as well as non-economic factors that are connected to the sustainability of the environment

For me, I think simplicity and clarity are both essential.

Yes, this definition will evolve, but ultimately it is about acting responsibly towards the world and the resources here.  

Why is environmental sustainability important?

walking peak district national park

There’s no doubt whatsoever that environmental sustainability is vitally important. 

It goes without saying that we need the environment for everyday living and will need it for everything in the future. If we don’t move towards more environmentally sustainable methods and practices, things such as our food and water supply will be at risk.

On a global scale, there’s now more intensive farming and industrial manufacturing than the world has ever seen before. More people need more food and more things! This leads to unsustainable energy usage, more greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation to make room. 

Of course, our planet can only provide so much at a certain rate. What we need is cleaner, sustainable and more efficient methods that puts environmental stability at the centre of practices.

How can environmental sustainability be achieved?

If we look at it broadly, there are two main avenues to help the globe achieve environmental sustainability:

  • Via individuals
  • Via businesses and government bodies

Realistically, we’re going to need a good combination of both. 

Individual examples of environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability is for the benefit of both the planet and the people that live on it. By making use of more renewable energy sources, such as the sun which are infinite by all practical purposes, we can help sustainable our environment better.

Although we need to start at the very top of the food chain, every single individual can make a difference.

Examples might be to always bring reusable shopping bags to your weekly shop, take a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go and make the switch over to energy efficient light bulbs in your home. As an individual or family you go also offset your carbon emissions through brilliant companies such as Ecologi.

If you want to learn more, here are plenty of simple ideas to go green at home

Like compound interest, small advances help over time. If millions of people took environmentally friendly action, we would see incredible benefit to our planet. 

easy ways to go green at home

Business & Governments examples

Whilst individuals can make a really huge impact, it’s the companies and government bodies that can make a whole world of difference. There are many fewer businesses and government than there are people, but they hold many times the power. And therefore the influence to make positive change. 

This is especially true when you think of the fact that just 100 businesses are responsible for 71% of all global greenhouse gas emissions since 1998!

Increased industrial farming, or big agriculture, is another leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. This is why the conversion over to regenerative agriculture is so important. Farming regeneratively puts the health of the land at its heart, looking after the land and soil in a much more sustainable manner. 

Other ways businesses can help environmental sustainability is to:

  • Plant trees and invest in rewilding initiatives
  • Reducing carbon emissions with the help from proper environmental reporting
  • Use renewable energy – solar, wind, hydro
  • Combating corruption
  • Pay fair wages. 
dales brow sustainable urban drainage system
A sustainable urban drainage system. In the spring and summer months, this is a hub for wildflowers and life.

On a local scale, governments need to green up areas and electrify the system. Little ideas such as sustainable urban drainage systems, as seen on the image above, are great for the environment.

You also have initiatives like Green Space Dark Skies who are holding outdoor sustainable events to bring more awareness to our beautiful environment and why we should protect it.

All these points together would see our culture move leaps and bounds towards a more sustainable future.

We hope you understand a little more the term environmental sustainability and why it’s so important to all living things on our planet.

It’s brilliant to know that there are many more like minded people out there, who care about living sustainably and thoughtfully. Together we can certainly make a difference, and awareness is always going to be the first step. 

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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.