We let the facts do the talking.


We hear a great deal about sustainability these days. In fact, it fair to say that the word has become one of the most trending in today’s business environment.

But what exactly does sustainability mean? Referring to a definition from the United Nations Brundtland Commission, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Put simply, sustainability presumes that resources are finite and should be used conservatively. It advocates husbandry of fossil fuels, the promotion of renewable energy sources and recycling. It encourages us to take a long-term look at our actions on the environment. When viewed through the prism of personal context, sustainability is about our children, our grandchildren and the world we will leave them.

According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2011, sustainability is inextricably linked to basic questions of equity — that is, fairness, social justice and greater access to a better quality of life. The report called for urgent action to slow climate change, prevent further degradation and reduce inequalities, highlighting how environmental deterioration threatens to reverse recent progress in human development for the world’s poorest.

When we look at the concept of sustainability as applied to the worldwide community, it would seem that individuals making small changes to their lifestyles is something that will have a negligible impact, particularly in view of the rapacious nature of huge global industries that are massive consumers resources. However, we should not underestimate the power of collective action. When enough individuals commit themselves to sustainable living on a personal level, it results in a synergistic effect. A community of like-minded people can become effective influencers to affect change in their neighbourhoods, their workplaces and ultimately the wider society.

Every journey starts with small steps. If you have yet to embrace sustainable living, here are some simple ways you can start out on the road to resource conservation:

  • Make your home energy efficient – this will both conserve fossil fuels as well as reduce your energy bills. Simple methods include repainting your residence with reflective paint to keep it cooler during the summer and reduce reliance on A/C. Advanced methods include solar panels on the roof for the generation of renewable electricity.
  • Eat less red meat. The rearing of cattle uses valuable food resources and as well as land that could be used for healthy edible plant production. Cattle are also a main cause of global warming through their methane emissions.
  • Buy less generally. We live in a consumer society, but most of our purchases ultimately end up as clutter. Save your money for valuable experiences, reuse what you have and go retro by repurposing old stuff.
  • Ditch the plastic – take a reusable bag with you for your shopping trips. Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide – a figure that equates to one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year and with their long degradation time, are a major source of pollution and threat to the environment.
  • Pay attention to the provenance of your purchases. Find out which brands have strong environmental credentials and select these products where possible (you may have to pay a little more at the till).
  • Be water wise – something that is especially important for our arid region. Water is arguably the most precious resource here. Simple methods for water conservation include not leaving the tap running and taking showers instead of baths. More committed methods include installing water saving faucets and toilet flushes.
  • Drive less and take public transport where possible. If you do need to take a car to work, offer to car pool with your colleagues. You can each drive in turns, meaning that you get to enjoy the less stressful experience of being a passenger.
  • Recycle

Of course, governments and companies have a major role to play in sustainability. However, by taking such small but nevertheless significant steps as outlined above, you can set an example for others – especially your children – to follow. In doing so, you will be planting the seeds for a bright and sustainable future for them to inherit!