For the longest time, whenever the term sustainability was used it was typically in reference to the environment. Practicing sustainability meant employing actions to conserve our natural resources and global ecosystems. Taking steps to protect our oceans, forests and lands, offsetting or reducing carbon emissions and eliminating pollution at its source. Through the process of achieving these outcomes we first have to investigate just how we conduct our lives, what we do and how we do it, in order to ensure we live in harmony with the planet.

And to get to a place of harmony with the outside world, we must also learn to conserve what’s within us.

Sustainability was always about more than just the environment

Our relationship with the planet, specifically how we intend to co-exist with it over the long haul, cannot just be limited to a single, ecological focus point. Yes, climate change is a massive issue, as is pollution and the destruction of our natural habitats, but the solution to these problems involves going much deeper, and broader, with our perspective.

How often do we consider the other pillars of sustainability? For example, how can our society develop and change (social sustainability), and how does our economy need to pivot in order for us to live in peace with the planet (economic sustainability)?

We need to create a demand for sustainable solutions, be they products, processes, goods or services.

It’s not just about achieving the ambitious goal of zero pollution. That’s all well and good, but it will take more than just petitioning companies and governments to enact that change. We need to create a demand for sustainable solutions, be they products, processes, goods or services. Those solutions require largescale adoption by society, and both an economic incentive and supporting system to ensure the oft forgotten pillars of sustainability are met. In short, companies need proof that their future action will not only be supported, but profitable. On the surface that might seem callous, mercenary even, but that’s just a company requiring certainty of two pillars of sustainability, before they commit to the third.

Broadening the scope of sustainability

Lately I’ve been considering what sustainability means, and how people perceive it. When collaborating with partners, brands and organisations, often the discussion turns to how they are trying to be better global citizens, especially their eco-friendly practices and environmentally responsible protocols. This type of discussion lights up my heart, and it is a true joy to connect with people who are looking to affect positive change, yet that only represents a sliver of the thesis that A Modern Remedy was founded upon. We are equally focus on sustainability in health and technology, but more on that in a moment.

Internal components of a mobile phone, next to a mobile phone battery.
Sustainability is about making sure things go the distance. Credit: Fairphone.

Recycled packaging, carbon neutrality and renewable energy sources should all be championed, and in an ideal world, the norm, but these practices need to be backed up with sustainable actions on both the macro and micro levels. There are so many opportunities to live in accordance with the values we uphold as ideologically important, and when enough of us do, they become an overwhelming force for good in this world. If you’ve eliminated plastic from your supply chain and logistic workflows, then that’s a value you need to also take home with you. It sends a powerful statement, not just to the world, but to yourself. It creates ripple effects within the economy, driving demand toward products and services that support sustainability and in turn shaping markets and business strategies. But it also demonstrates integrity and honesty, setting you down a path of examining other areas in your own life, seeing where and how you could make sustainable choices that support both the planet, and your own wellbeing.

Change starts from within

So, what else could you apply the label of sustainability to in your own life? How about some of the items you use on a daily basis, like your computer or phone. These devices require significant resources to produce, especially at scale. Have you examined how easy (or difficult) it is to repair them? And when they are in need of fixing, do you automatically opt to replace them, or could you instead support the local community by visiting a repair shop? If you’ve gone down that route, yet find your device is only repairable at the company’s own store (usually at a very high markup), have you questioned why that is? Or, if that is fair? Are you familiar with the Right to Repair movement? Because if any of these questions are new to you, then you should be.

Saying you’re interested in helping the planet is a great first step, but it requires more than just optimism or online outrage to affect change.

How about examining what powers and sustains us as people – nutrition and mental health. Have you looked into foods, diets or supplements that support optimal health and are sourced in a way that is low impact on our planet and its resources? What daily steps are you taking to ensure your mental health is a priority? Try and see these not just as nagging questions, but rather, an investigation into just how vibrant your own internal ecosystem is. Without a healthy mind and body, you’ll quickly run out of juice, rending all your well-meaning environmental pursuits moot.

Saying you’re interested in helping the planet is a great first step, but it requires more than just optimism or online outrage to affect change. Sustainability is just that, persisting over the long-haul, in that requires both living in accordance with your values, as well as employing systems that support those values.

Next time your thoughts turn to environmental conservation, I invite you to reflect upon other areas of your life that you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with sustainability. Because making that mental link will help empower you to live a happier and healthier life and enable you to be more of a difference in this world, for longer.

Make sure you can sustain your own wellbeing. Because the world needs more changemakers like you.