Sustainability refers to the vital steps we take to secure a healthy, habitable environment for future generations. Through a combination of small lifestyle changes and buy-ins from major players, sustainable efforts can help us cool down the Earth, save our forests, and protect the Earth’s tomorrow.
This guide will answer a key question—“Why is sustainability important?” After exploring four reasons why sustainability considerations are worth your while, we’ll offer a step-by-step guide to sustainable living.
Humans are unequivocally the cause of global warming.1 It’s up to us to rebuild a planet that can sustain humans (and itself) for the upcoming millennia.
4 Reasons to Believe in Sustainability
Why is sustainability important? Let’s break down four reasons to center environmental responsibility in your lifestyle. Sustainability benefits humans, the economy, and the planet, but it’s also crucial for continuing life as we know it.
#1 Humans Need a Home
The Earth is our home—and for that reason alone, we owe it to our planet (and ourselves) to take care of it. As things currently stand, the effects of climate change could be irreversible for the next hundreds of thousands of years:2
- Greenhouse gasses have increased Earth’s temperature by almost two degrees Fahrenheit since 1750.
- Millennia-old ice sheets and glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and geographical ranges of plants and animals are changing.
- The increase in extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires is happening faster than scientists previously estimated.
At some point, these conditions could render the planet unlivable for our flora and fauna, including the human race.
The most important effect of long-term sustainability efforts—by individuals, but more importantly by the powerful institutions that influence the world order—is that they’ll help maintain a habitable biosphere for humans. While innovators are working on far-flung ideas to venture throughout the solar system, we must focus on repairing the home that’s already available to us.
#2 Sustainability Supports Our Economies
Sustaining the planet for future human generations should be reason enough to get on board. But efforts to keep the planet alive can also positively impact local, national, and international economies. In other words, sustainability is good for business.3
While conditions of the world economy impact every country on the planet, let’s zoom in on local fiscal landscapes. When local jurisdictions (cities, counties, and states) invest in sustainability, they can expect both short- and long-term benefits, including:
When local economies invest in sustainability, they stand to earn more in the long run. Environmental responsibility and financial prosperity go hand in hand.
#3 When the Planet is Healthier, So Are We
Sustainability efforts can keep the planet liveable—but, that’s not the only benefit humans can reap when they protect and improve the planet-wide ecosystem.
Let’s turn to an important element of any flourishing community—public health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains climate change’s impact on public health by exploring three crucial elements:4
- Increased global temperatures
- Extreme precipitation (both heavy rain and drought periods)
- Increased weather emergencies and natural disasters
- Rising sea levels
- These climate impacts subject humans to increased exposures, including:
- Extreme heat
- Low air quality
- Reduced quality of food and water
- Changes in the infectious disease landscape
- Migration and population changes
- In turn, these exposures produce a variety of health outcomes that affect entire communities:
- Heat-related illnesses
- Cardiopulmonary conditions
- Food-, water-, air-, and vector-borne illnesses
- Mental health consequence
Decreasing climate impacts decreases humans’ exposure to hazardous conditions, improving their health outcomes on both an individual and community level. Sustainable communities are healthy ones.
#4 Our Future Depends on It
To sustain something is to keep it going for an extended period of time. To that end, environmental sustainability is an effort to conserve, protect, and grow the ecosystem that will support humans for generations to come.
Don’t we want that for the people that will come after us?
The scientific community disagrees on how much time Earth has left, but they agree that we can extend its viability by addressing the human-borne factors of global warming.5
In other words, the future of the human race depends on how well we treat the planet in the years to come. Efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, conserve and responsibly use the natural resources available to us, and steward the plants and wildlife that sustain us are crucial for the continuation of humanity.
How to Be More Sustainable
Now that we’ve broken down the importance of sustainability and fighting the climate crisis, what’s next? Whether you’re new to the climate science conversation or a long-time green guru, the following steps can help you live a more sustainable life. Of course, this can manifest in sustainability in the workplace or in your own home.
The first step is gathering as much peer-reviewed, evidence-based knowledge as possible about sustainability, environmentalism, and the current state of affairs.
We’d encourage you not just to trust the science of climate change, but to also learn it and understand it as deeply as possible. A strong knowledge base can:
- Help you prioritize your personal sustainability goals
- Give you a bank of knowledge to share with your community and beyond
- Bolster your efforts to influence the institutions that impact our lives
Spend some time reading credible primary sources about climate change. Some examples include:
- NASA’s Global Climate Change website
- NOAA’s educational resources
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports and sustainability initiative
Assess Your Lifestyle
After you get your bearings in the sustainability conversation, it’s time to assess your lifestyle to find opportunities to make impactful changes.
Explore multiple facets of your life, like:
- The products you use, including:
- Food and drinks
- Cosmetics and self-care products
- Cleaning supplies
- Your energy use patterns (your monthly utility bills can provide useful data)
- Your transportation and travel needs
- Your budget—how you spend the money you have
Research your choices and how sustainable (or unsustainable) they are, and brainstorm alternatives. For instance, if you drive your own car to work every day, it might be feasible for you to hop on public transit, join a carpool, or bike to the office, reducing your fossil fuel needs.
But don’t feel discouraged if you discover things you can’t change. If public transit isn’t available to you, carpooling isn’t an option, or physical limitations prevent you from walking or biking to work, that’s okay. Instead, focus on the everyday habits that you can change.
Make Intentional Changes
Once you establish which areas of your life are ripe for a sustainable upgrade, start making those changes.
But, don’t burn yourself out—make changes one step at a time:
- Start with something small, like carrying a reusable water bottle or grocery bag.
- Slowly add more ambitious tasks, like:
- Experimenting with composting
- Purchasing products from sustainable brands
- Trying out public transit
- Conquer big goals one at a time, like adding solar panels to your home or purchasing an electric car.
Rome wasn’t built in a day—you can improve the sustainability of your everyday life as slowly or quickly as you’d like.
Organize for Change
While individual, simple changes are important for reversing climate change, individual humans aren’t doing nearly as much damage as the powerful corporations and government institutions that run the world. As of 2016, 90 companies and government-run organizations were responsible for two-thirds of carbon emissions.6
That said, we can’t pressure these mega-emitters to change on our own. We must team up with other climate activists, the scientific community, and local organizations to influence change-makers—the people who have the power to enact change at scale.
Organize or join efforts to call your government representatives, vote with the planet in mind, and become a voice for the sustainability movement.
Don’t stop doing your homework after the first stage. Stay up-to-date on climate change news, innovations, and government policies to efficiently direct your efforts and share accurate information with friends and neighbors.
As positive change happens, don’t be afraid to celebrate the victories. Shout the positive impacts of progress from the rooftops and share the good news about sustainability wins.
But also remember to keep your eye on the prize—a viable planet and biosphere that can sustain human, plant, and animal life for the next millennium.
Reel Paper: Sustainability at Home
Sustainability is crucial to the survival of the planet. Humans need a place to live, economies can benefit from sustainable changes, environmental responsibility can improve public health outcomes, and our future depends on efforts to make the Earth a cooler, greener place.
While implementing personal lifestyle changes, don’t forget about the paper products you use in your daily life—like paper towels and toilet paper. These products are typically made from wood pulp (a rarely sustainable method), but there’s an alternative shaking up the market and contributing to positive change.
At Reel, we specialize in bamboo paper products. Bamboo is a much more sustainable alternative to traditional tree-based paper products, and our sustainable products are 100% tree-free and plastic-free.
When you’re ready to take the plunge into sustainability, Reel has your back—environmental responsibility is just a roll away.
- NASA. How Do We Know Climate Change is Real?. https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
- NASA. The Effects of Climate Change. https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/
- Institute for Local Government. The Fiscal and Economic Benefits of Sustainability. https://www.ca-ilg.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/the_fiscal_and_economic_benefits_of_sustainability_draft.pdf
- US Environmental Protection Agency. Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health. https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/understanding-connections-between-climate-change-and-human-health
- Scientific American. How Much Time Does Humanity Have Left?. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-much-time-does-humanity-have-left/
- Science. Just 90 Companies Are to Blame for Most Climate Change, This “Carbon Accountant” Says. https://www.science.org/content/article/just-90-companies-are-blame-most-climate-change-carbon-accountant-says