This article provides a concept of sustainable consumption.
Our existence, lifestyles, and economies depend completely on the sun and the earth, a blue and white island in the black void of space. We can think of energy from the sun as solar capital, and we can think of the planet’s air, water, fertile soil, forests, grasslands, wetlands, oceans, streams, lakes, wildlife, minerals, and natural purification and recycling processes as earth capital.
A sustainable society manages its economy and population size without exceeding all or part of the planet’s ability to absorb environmental insults, replenish its resources, and sustain human and other forms of life over a specified period— usually hundreds to thousands of years.
During this period, it satisfies the needs of its people without degrading or depleting earth capital and thereby-jeopardizing the prospects of current and future generations of humans and other species. To meet current and growing consumption, we are extracting and using deposits of non-renewable resources such as oil and various minerals.
Fixed supplies of coal, oil, and natural gas produced underground over millions of years from decayed matter are being depicted within a few hundred years (oil within perhaps 40-80 years)— hundreds of thousands of times faster than they were formed.
Some resources, such as aluminium and glass, can be recycled or reused. History also shows that when certain non-renewable minerals become scarce, higher prices can spur discovery of new deposits and lead to extraction of known deposits that were too costly.
In addition, history shows that we can often find substitutes for depleted or too-costly non-renewable minerals. Some analysts believe that we are not in danger of running out of key non-renewable minerals, such as copper, iron, and aluminium.
Instead, they are concerned about the harmful environmental effects of extracting, processing, and in some cases discarding such resources at increasing rates. Greatly increased recycling and reuse of such non-renewable minerals can prolong supplies and reduce the harmful environmental impacts associated with their use.
A sustainable lifestyle can be achieved by not wasting energy and by relying on resources such as virtually inexhaustible solar energy in the form of sunlight, wind, flowing water, renewable wood, hydrogen gas produced by using solar energy to decompose water, and heat from the earth’s interior.
On our short human time scale, the brief “fossil-fuel age” we now live in is eventually unsustainable. The energy in oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuels cannot be recycled; once used, it is gone. On burning these fuels releases sphere, with the extra carbon dioxide produced threatening to change the planet’s climate.
By wasting less energy, we could make these fuels last longer, reduce their environmental impact, and make as easier transition to a new, renewable-energy age.