Sustainability is not just about adopting the latest energy-efficient technologies or turning to renewable sources of power. Sustainability is the responsibility of every individual every day. It is about changing our behaviour and mindset to reduce power and water consumption, thereby helping to control emissions and pollution levels.
– Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG, Berlin & Munich

I have my eye on the next Samsung Note 10 cellphone, but then again, my existing phone is only three years old and only slightly lagging.

Besides, the new phone’s price is a great deterrent.

In this era of rapid development and consumerism, we have many new products and services in the market.

he ever quick introduction of new products with shorter life cycles also encourages the purchases of these new products.

Our desire to keep up appearances spurs us on to be seen with the latest products.

This, of course, comes at a cost, not just financial, but also social and environmental which entails the exploitation of our ever limited natural resources.

The realisation that due to rapid material consumption, our natural resources are being quickly depleted has led individuals and organisations, both local and international, to advocate the concept of “sustainable consumption”.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines sustainable as “causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time”.

Sustainable consumption and also production is therefore about encouraging the use of our natural resources and energy in an efficient and effective manner and to have a sustainable system that will provide us with a better quality of life.

The effective implementation of sustainable consumption and production will help us to achieve cost reduction related to future economic, environmental and social activities leading to the strengthening of our economic competitiveness and also reduction in poverty.

Our current level of unrestrained consumption continues to pose challenges related to our air, water and land pollution.

We must adopt a more environmentally friendly consumption lifestyle, meaning “doing more and better, but with less”.

This approach will lead to a reduction in wasteful use of resources, reduction in degradation and pollution along the whole life cycle of products, but ultimately increasing our quality of life leading to a net gain in the welfare of all.

Of course, it is important that there needs to be an emphasis and focus on sustainable production along the entire supply chain, involving everyone from producers to consumers.

However, realistically, as most of us are aware it is not easy to convince producers to apply a sustainable production approach to their operations unless they see an economic benefit to themselves.

The fastest way to achieve a sustainable production operation is to force producers to comply with sustainable practices. Yet, again as we know, the mindset of politicians and bureaucrats tend to lag behind that of an environmentalist.

To wait for laws could be eons in the making. In the meantime, our resources carry on being depleted and the environment continues to degrade.

To put things in perspective, a United Nations (UN) report stated that if the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, it would require three planet earths to provide us with the natural resources to maintain our current lifestyles.

We are also polluting our rivers and lakes faster than nature can recycle and purify the water and to cap it, more than a billion people still do not have access to fresh water.

The UN reports further add that we as households consume 29 per cent of global energy and therefore are said to contribute to 21% of the resulting CO2 emissions.

On top of that, it is estimated that worldwide each year one third of all the food produced (about 1.3 billion tonnes worth around RM4.11 trillion) ends up rotting in our bins or that of the retailer, with the rest spoiling due to poor logistics and bad harvesting practices. In addition to this, we have two billion people globally who are overweight or obese.

Therefore, we as concerned citizens should take pro-active action based on what is within our sphere of control without waiting for governments to legislate.

Here are some quick tips just to get you started.

Practise the 5Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) whenever possible. Buy less, shop at second-hand item stores and buy pre-loved items, try to refuse or avoid plastic items, especially single-use plastics.

Do your own research, bring your own bags and bottles, find sustainable alternatives, buy local products and food, and buy organic fruits and vegetables.

You can start with a tip which you are comfortable with and slowly evolve from there. None of us can become perfect but once you start to make that one change, you will most likely make more.

The important point here is to try your best and do anything that you can.

I hope when you make your next purchase, it is a conscious one and you will be saving money and preserving the environment.


The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.