10 popular sustainability myths

10 popular sustainability myths

28 Feb 2019

Everybody’s talking about sustainability these days and there is no shortage of ideas about it; what it really means and how to achieve it. However, in this sea of information, it is important to navigate carefully as there are numerous sustainability myths that often go unchecked. These myths can arise from genuine misunderstandings or, in some cases, be intentionally spread for malicious purposes. Thus, it becomes crucial to distinguish fact from fiction and shed light on the most common sustainability misconceptions. By delving into the top 10 sustainability myths in this article, we aim to debunk falsehoods, provide accurate information, and equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about sustainability practices.

Green Forest Happy Girl

Common sustainability myths

Sustainability isn’t well defined

While the word may seem vaguely defined, at best, it was actually precisely defined by a United Nations committee as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. While opinions may differ, this is a very good source to point to, whenever the subject is being discussed.

Sustainability is all about climate change

While it’s true that current CO2 emission levels are not sustainable if we want to maintain a livable climate, sustainability is actually not only about this. The definition is much wider and covers all human activity. This is a very common sustainability myth. We need a sustainable climate, but we also need a sustainable economy and sustainable political systems in order to achieve overall sustainability.

Another sustainability myth - It’s too expensive

If sustainability is too expensive we have some bad news for you: The world, as we know it, will end. Ask yourself this: What carries a higher cost, achieving a sustainable society or continue the march towards collapse? You will probably see the point now. It’s a popular sustainability myth, that it will be too expensive. Yes, it will cost something and it may not come cheap, but it’s really the only choice.

Family in the Forest Sunny Day Green Living

By recognising the long-term consequences of inaction and the potential for irreversible damage, the imperative for embracing sustainability becomes even more evident. So, in light of this pressing need, it is crucial for individuals, businesses, and governments to realise the true cost of inaction and rally behind sustainable initiatives that can mitigate the impending environmental challenges we face.

Sustainability is equal to recycling

People like simple and easy to understand solutions so it’s understandable that a sustainability myth like this gets a hold, but no. Recycling is an important component of sustainability work, but it’s only a part of it all. In fact, recycling may not help us at all in some cases as we’re still dealing with limited and sometimes diminishing resources. In many cases, recycling may work as a temporary band-aid, but the proper solution is something else. We need to understand that recycling is just one piece of a larger puzzle, and that we must prioritise sustainable production and consumption practices, embrace the principles of a circular economy, explore innovative technologies and a lot more.

Sustainability will take us backwards in time and make us poor and miserable

No, it won’t. Actually, it wouldn’t be possible for us to move back to old ways of living as we wouldn’t be able to sustain the Earth’s population in that way. The way towards a sustainable society goes through innovation and efficient use of resources. We will have to become much more technically advanced to pull through this.

Sustainability is not about going back to ancient times but rather about finding innovative solutions that can help us enhance our quality of life while minimising our impact on the planet. By leveraging advancements in technology, such as renewable energy sources, efficient transportation systems, and sustainable agriculture, we can create a future where we enjoy the benefits of modernity without exhausting the Earth's resources.

Windmill Renewable Source - Sustainability Concept

Another thing - sustainability can actually lead to economic growth and improved well-being for individuals and communities. Investments in renewable energy and clean technologies can stimulate economic development. And last but not least, sustainable practices can enhance social equity by ensuring access to clean air, water, and food for all, regardless of socioeconomic status. Only through properly directed and thorough research will we be able to identify the solutions today that will make for a sustainable future. Life, for everyone, will get better, not worse.

Free markets and well-informed consumers are the only way forward

It is a stubborn sustainability myth that the market will take care of everything. As limited natural resources run scarce, they say that increasing prices will steer consumers away, towards more modern and sustainable alternatives. Unfortunately, this will simply not work. To begin with, we may not have time to wait for this to happen as we may run into a completely unsustainable situation long before the market correction ever happens, if it happens. In addition, the kind of market correction envisioned will be very violent and wreak havoc with the economy, which is also an important component of the sustainability puzzle.

So, we can't just sit back and hope for a market correction that may never happen or could come too late. We're running out of time, and if we don't take action, we could end up in a situation that's impossible to fix. Dealing with sustainability challenges calls for a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just focusing on market trends. We need to consider multiple strategies and tackle this issue from various angles to make a real difference.

Technology will solve all our problems

Technology will certainly solve a lot of problems, but sustainability hinges to a high degree on each and every one of us to make smarter decisions and to plan our lives better. For example, we may all get electric cars that run on renewable energy in the future but ultimately it won’t help if we just keep on living as we do now. We will also have to start thinking about what we really need and plan our lives better so that we don’t have to drive around in our cars all the time as this will surely lead to an unsustainable traffic situation. Perhaps many of us don’t need a car at all. Skipping the car actually means less technology, not more.

Electric Car Sustainability Concept

We really need to change our way of thinking and start questioning our consumption patterns, considering alternatives that minimise our carbon footprint. Instead of relying solely on technology to solve our environmental problems, we should look for ways to make the most of what we already have. This involves finding creative ways to repurpose and reuse materials, reducing waste, upcycling and adopting practices that help us save energy.

Sustainability is the same as going green

Going green, using only what’s natural is what many think of when sustainability is discussed. It’s one very popular sustainability myth, and there is a grain of truth to it, but it’s not by any means the whole truth. Making “green” choices for food, energy and lifestyle will make you feel good and it’s probably good for your health, compared to many other options, but doesn’t make it sustainable.

Achieving sustainable development will force us to make some tough choices, not all of them very green at all. Getting electricity from nuclear power, for example, is hardly considered green by anyone, but it may still be the sustainable choice, in some cases, if we want to keep on living the way we do.
In a similar way, we may have to make other choices that can’t be considered green, but that will actually take us in the right direction, nonetheless.

The earth’s population is unsustainable

Reducing the earth’s population could make things easier, but where does that line of thinking end up? Focusing on perceived overpopulation of our planet won’t take us anywhere and the fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the optimal population is.

More people than ever are living on Earth today, but poverty is at its lowest level ever. It is a popular sustainability myth among some people that there is a known population limit for planet Earth. It’s a matter of managing our resources and doing it in a reasonable way, for the benefit of everyone.

Sustainability is just a matter of making some small adjustments to our lives

If sustainability were an easy nut to crack we probably wouldn’t be in the current situation, to begin with. Yes, it is true that we all have to make adjustments to our ways of living and most of them may be rather small, but it’s hardly enough. This sustainability myth builds on the assumption that all problems are local. They are not. Most sustainability problems are global and require large scale solutions. Only when we work with sustainability on all levels of society will the road forward emerge. You can start small by changing something you use everyday, like sustainable dental products instead of regular ones, or compostable phone case, and see where it will take you.

Bamboo Toothbrush Red
Dental Floss Sustainability

Education and awareness are absolutely vital when it comes to advancing sustainability goals. By spreading knowledge and understanding how our actions impact the world around us, we can inspire more individuals to join the good fight and actively participate in sustainable practices.

In short

Debunking sustainability myths can help us make informed decisions and take effective action. Sustainability is not just about climate change or recycling; it encompasses all aspects of human activity, including the economy and political systems. While some may argue that sustainability is expensive, the true cost of inaction far outweighs the investments required for a sustainable society. Sustainability needs systemic changes on a global scale, driven by education, awareness, and collaborative efforts across society.

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