By Somaya Magdy Ghoraba, IUCN CEM Young Professional.
Achieving sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. It is not only about nations taking comprehensive actions; however, very little actions can make a difference. It is not surprising that our lifestyle and habits of consumption can affect sustainability efforts over a larger scale of the country. Increasing levels of daily consumption of food, fuel and other products mean high levels of use of raw material and energy.
Knowing that most of energy sources and mineral resources are not renewable, increasing consumption threatens sustainability; moreover, by-products of production promote air and water pollution. Similarly, some of the renewable resources too would take hundreds of years to be replenished or recovered as for forests, rivers, lakes and their ecosystem services. To understand the impact of human consumption of resources, ecological footprint matrix was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees. This estimates the amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply the people in a particular country or area with resources and to absorb and recycle the wastes and pollution produced by such resource use. In affluent communities, the consumption level is relatively high compared to poor communities that hardly meet their basic amenities. Similar to this, to measure the average ecological footprint of the individual in a given country or area, another matrix, the per capita ecological footprint was devised. This means that the behaviour of individual matters. The things that we, as individuals, buy and consume, can trigger environmental degradation or boost the existence of healthy and clean Earth.
Recently, a new lifestyle is adopted by groups of people in developed countries known as “voluntary simplicity”. In this lifestyle, people are changing their daily habits into a more simple and sustainable manner. They pretend to consume less and enjoy more. Such transition encourages people to be aware of how they influence their environment. Simple living ranges from buying locally grown food to cooking at home, walking, biking and carpooling instead of using cars every day, using energy-efficient systems, growing organic food, and encouraging reduce, reuse and recycle. This individual initiative not only has an impact on environmental sustainability but also has a positive effect on one’s social and financial aspects.
Mahatma Gandhi encourages conscious living by his quote:
The Earth provides enough to satisfy every person’s need but not every person’s greed. When we take more than we need, we are simply taking from each other, borrowing from the future, or destroying the environment and other speciesMahatma Gandhi
Ms Somaya Magdy Ghoraba currently doing her PhD at Department of Environmental Sciences, Alexandria University, Egypt.