The True Meaning of Sustainability…

‘Sustainability’, it’s a word we all hear on the daily… but what does it really mean?

This week, I was inspired by Sustainably.Zoe, who educates her followers on all things sustainable living (no way?!). One of her posts in particular struck a chord. Sustainability: what does that even mean? She asks, and answers.

We can understand the true meaning of sustainability as a concept made up of three pillars, the social, the economic and the environmental. Should one of these pillars be neglected, or the three pillars stand unequally, it will cause the whole (metaphorical) structure to fall, thus, rendering true sustainability unachievable.

If sustainability is, in its simplest terms, ‘meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations’, then what can we do today to ensure these three aspects of our lives meet sustainable standards?


Another definition of sustainability I subscribe to, especially in the context of social sustainability, is one coined by Aditi Mayer. The influencer who aims to decolonise sustainability and fashion argues that ‘sustainability is first and foremost a lifestyle, it can’t be reduced to a consumer act’.

Social sustainability includes social and health equity, human and labour rights, and social justice. Of course, as individuals, there is only so much we can do. Many social issues are systematic, but we can still make small changes; you never know, they could make a big difference.

Equality and Diversity

  • Equality is an act which reduces disadvantages to certain groups, or helps certain groups remove barriers and take more control over their lives, supporting equality and diversity in your community could mean volunteering at your local soup kitchen, donating to meaningful charities or making a conscious effort to be an ally to people who feel underrepresented or ignored
  • Ensuring equality and diversity also requires an educated populous, as individuals, we need to actively pursue a life of recognising unconscious biases, speaking up against injustices and encouraging people who would otherwise be at a disadvantage. We must unlearn systems and create new ones that align with our values in a modern society

Quality of Life

  • Quality of life means affordable housing, physical and mental medical support, employment opportunities, and of course, happiness and well-being, while we cannot directly change the systems that ensure people have access to these necessities, we can amend our outlooks; to be kinder, and more giving


In an economic context, people are consumers in a system of supply and demand. This means our buying choices matter, and have a large impact on the buying market. Even in the least progressive school of ecological thought, Neo-liberal Environmentalism, it is argued that if there is no consumer demand for a product, the product will simply not be sold by suppliers, and vice versa. This is true, and has been realised in front of our very eyes in the last ten years.

In 2019 alone, the amount of people adopting a vegan diet increased by 62%, and this did not go unnoticed by suppliers. Now, in 2020, almost all fast food chains, restaurants and supermarket monopolies sell vegan ranges or dishes.

Consumer Power

  • Exercising our economic consumer power means making conscious choices to reduce our intake, only buying organically and ethically sourced and produced products, and boycotting companies with unethical practices
  • The doctrines of Neo-Liberal Environmentalism put the responsibility of change on individuals, but as groups we are more powerful, making these economic decisions en masse requires organisation, so joining an initiative or group (in person or online) that aligns with your values will solidify your resolve to make environmentally-conscious decisions


We hear about environmental sustainability all the time, and it’s another step on the ladder to ensuring the true meaning of sustainability. To protect and conserve our environment, individual and group efforts are required. A large part of it is about staying inspired, and learning to appreciate what you have. It’s a mindset more than it is an act.

Sustainableelle is one of our favourite influencers for daily tips and tricks to keep sustainability fun and easy. She reminds us in one of her latest posts, ‘a sustainable lifestyle is more than just one good green deed, it’s a bunch of habits and conscious choices practised daily’.

Habits and Rituals

  • Don’t forget to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, learn more about the ins and outs of practising these healthy habits daily by reading our dedicated blog post
  • Find new and innovative ways to unlearn what we are used to, and adopt new, sustainable traditions that don’t harm the planet, a lot of this is about staying inspired by people who set a great example, and learning from them
  • The most important of the three R’s, reduce, reuse and recycle, is to reduce and reuse… a large part of learning to do this without thinking is learning to appreciate what we have, let’s all set goals for 2021, and make it a better year for sustainability

Leave a comment