I have a lot of questions asking how to the difference between green and sustainable living, so I wrote this small article to explain the major differences between green and sustainable.
When it comes to going green versus adopting a sustainable lifestyle, the confusion is widespread.
According to the Global Ecolabel website, “In the simplest terms, living green means making lifestyle decisions and engaging in practices which reduce the negative impact on and promote the health of the planet and its creatures.”
In the same breath, sustainable living (according to the Sustainable Jungle website) can be defined as “a practical philosophy that aims to reduce personal and societal environmental impact by making positive changes which counteract climate change and other negative environmental concerns.”
In light of these two definitions, the terms “green” and “sustainable” both point toward environmental awareness and the preservation of natural resources. That being said, there are subtle differences between the two terms.
While green living is primarily concerned with environmental health, sustainable living additionally involves an interest in the economic health and social benefits. In other words, although sustainability includes certain aspects of green living, so-called green products are not necessarily sustainable.
So the most important difference between green and sustainable is that green living is primarily and mostly focused on the environment, while the sustainable lifestyle cares about everything that may offer a good contribution to life including the environment.
Green Living is Focused on the Environment
“Green” is a term that describes anything that is environmentally friendly, including clothing, architecture, and food choices. It refers to all products and processes that support the wellbeing of the environment.
In modern times is common to hear environmental activists encouraging the public to go green, in order to preserve our natural resources.
Going green is not a process that can occur overnight, but it is a continuous journey towards living in alignment with the land. This means monitoring and improving upon the way in which we use our natural resources, in an effort to restore balance to the ecosystem.
But going green reaches far beyond the most commonly practiced methods of being eco-friendly – reusing and recycling. Although these practices are certainly green, one of the main focuses of green living centers around reducing the number of resources used.
If you think about it, reducing waste forms the cornerstone of both sustainable and green living – with recycling and reusing contributing to a reduction in waste. The term waste in this context refers not only to food and product packaging but to electrical processes and transport options that use up our natural resources.
Going green is about making an individual effort to switch off lights and appliances when not in use, as well as attempting to avoid traveling in cars and airplanes.
The burning of fuels produces greenhouse gases in the form of carbon dioxide, and airplanes account for approximately 2 percent of carbon emissions globally.
This contributes to the climate crisis or global warming, and for this reason, environmentalists choose to avoid traveling by air whenever possible. Additionally, instead of driving short distances, those committed to the green lifestyle will either walk or cycle.
Sustainable Living is Focused on the Environment and More
Although sustainable living adopts all green practices, the key difference between the two terms, essentially boils down to the magnitude and focus of practices and policies.
Sustainability implies the ability to go on forever, continuing with practices that will not affect the finite lifespan of the planet. This means taking a broader look at the scope of the problem, and in addition to healthy eco-friendly practices, sustainability involves economic growth and social equity. As a result, sustainability focuses on a wide range of practices that support the well-being of future generations.
Although green living is focused both on current times and the future, sustainability is primarily focused on the future. In other words, sustainable practices are centred around meeting the needs of the present moment – without jeopardizing future needs that will arise.
Remember, the three pillars of sustainability are environmental well-being, economic advantages as well as social justice. This means committing to eco-friendly activities that support changes within the social, economic and environmental fields.
Within the focus of these three arenas, sustainable living aims to balance the relationship between humans and the environment. In light of this, sustainability involves more effort and action than green living and is generally done on a larger scale.
For example, one sustainable practice would be the creation of greener spaces within an urban setting. Another example is sustainable agriculture including fishing practices, crop rotation and forestry. By taking care of natural resources in this way, the earth’s finite resources are preserved for future generations.
One of the more controversial examples of sustainable living is the decision to eat less meat or to go vegan. These choices significantly benefit the environment, not only in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the agriculture industry, but also in terms of the rain forests that have been cut down for farming.
The meat and dairy industry accounts for up to 60 percent of the agricultural industry’s annual emissions – which totals 13.7 billion tons of greenhouse gas. While you don’t need to go vegan right away, cutting down on meat and dairy is an essential aspect of sustainable living.
The Bottom Line
Essentially, living sustainably focuses on an entire societal system, whereas living green is concerned with an individual contribution to environmental well-being.
Therefore, living green is only one branch of the three-pronged sustainability tree. As a result, sustainable living and going green overlap completely, however not all green products are considered sustainable.
For example, even if the packaging of an item is completely biodegradable, if the item was imported it can no longer be considered sustainable.
When it comes to environmental concerns, the challenge can seem insurmountable. There are so many practices to adopt, new ways of thinking to embrace, and new habits to develop.
For this reason, it is a good idea to transition to a more eco-friendly way of life over a period of time. But regardless of whether you choose to live green or sustainable, you can bet your future that you are making a difference!
Let’s do the sustainable environment real SOONER.
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