15

Behaviour can be sustainable and polluting at the same time, if these conditions are met (all examples taken from wastewater): The natural environment you are polluting is at all able to destroy the pollutants (usually, but not always, biological pathways): Taking a dump in a river may be okay, since your feces will be biodegradable. Other, industrial ...


9

The big advantage of localising the economy is that transport is reduced, which means less CO2 emissions. A second advantage is that multiple local farms or factories spread over the country have less impact on the local enviroment than one large farm/factory that needs to produce the same amount. Farm monocultures for example can only be maintained with (...


9

Ultimately, it is a question of system boundaries. To be sustainable, a process must not ... Use energy faster than it can be replenished Use material resources faster then they can be replenished. Note that you could see most forms of energy also as material (fuel) Pollute faster than the polluted system can clean itself. Note that most energy generation ...


9

Since this is a part of the defining sustainability series, I am adding my own perspective here. Other perspectives of course are welcome and the whole purpose is to provide public insight into what's on and off topic here so please vote on these. The problems @Pitt noted above are design issues with well understood solutions, which include biodiversity ...


8

"No" is a pretty safe answer in general to the question "Can a behaviour be polluting while still being sustainable?", just from any reasonable definitions of "pollution" and "sustainable". But let's look at some corner cases. For example, broadly speaking, CO2 is both a local and a global pollutant. But. If anthropogenic CO2 emissions were only 1-2% of ...


8

The concept of sustainability was originally defined as « meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs » (United Nations Brundtland Commision, 1987). Following this definition, something is either sustainable or not sustainable; sustainability cannot be “improved” or “worsened” (or it ...


7

It can be observed from many past events that low levels of biodiversity such as mono cultures are susceptible to total destruction by a change in circumstances. The Irish potato famine is one familiar example. High Biodiversity implies that there are more potential solutions to survival for new scenarios in the future. High biodiversity also implies that ...


6

This isn't an exhaustive set, but I am a person who watches quite a few documentaries, and consider myself an advocate of more sustainable living. Here are some that I've watched. My personal ratings are listed (if they're in my Netflix history), as well as the start of my reviews, if I left one: Describing the Problem The Age of Stupid (5 of 5 stars): ...


6

On the positive side economically you are expanding the market for sustainable products, which will help lower their price and make them more likely to be developed. Another reason to make the effort is that the grandchildren of the people who aren't pursuing sustainability may be, for example, traumatized like the grandchildren of war criminals, and wish ...


6

Another sustainability aspect of bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general) is the electricity consumption of mining: "The electricity used to mine bitcoin this year is bigger than the annual usage of 159 countries" (http://businessinsider.de)


5

Live close to where you want to go. Most longer distance methods of travel have an enormous environmental impact, or just take too long. Consider where your friends and family live, where you work, and where you shop. Learn about the impact of various types of transport so you can make sensible decisions. Take a big picture look at the energy use and ...


5

Broadly speaking the two are orthogonal. That is, financial sustainability isn't related directly or consistently to environmental sustainability. Specifically, there are examples that swing strongly in both directions. At one extreme, you have subsistence farmers or hunter-gatherers who don't use value-based exchange at all, and different groups of those ...


5

The sustainability of fiber farming Cotton, Bamboo, and Hemp all depend heavily on the cultivation methods being used. That being said we can compare the function stacking ability of these crops. Organic Cotton is an perennial plant that is grown as an annual crop so requires effort and Energy every year to get the crop started. It also require a great deal ...


5

Sustainability = the ability to continue a particular behavior, lifestyle or process indefinitely Living off the grid = living without using public supplies of utilities such as water, electricity or natural gas Green = beneficial to the environment. A problem with the above definitions is that many people will disagree and define these terms ...


5

It's reasonable to say that a lifestyle can still be sustainable even if not everybody could live that way. It's like filling a niche in an ecosystem. Obviously we can't all eat discarded/excess meals, but there is certainly room for such behaviour to be part of a system that is sustainable as a whole. You almost certainly can't live that way your whole life ...


5

There isn't really a single agreed-upon definition of sustainability. Everyone has a basic idea of what it is, but the exact meaning differs from person to person. Most common definition The most common and often-cited definition of sustainability, or to be more precise that of sustainable development, is the one in the Brundtland report "Our common ...


5

There are lots of ways to subcategorise renewables, for example: Indirect + direct solar (wind, wave, hydro, biomass, biogas, PV, CSP, solar thermal, - and what's used up here in all cases is incoming solar energy), versus others (tidal & geothermal) Combustion (biomass, biogas) versus others Heat engines (geothermal, biomass, biogas) versus others ...


4

As an answer to your 2nd question, I would cite the Jevons Paradox as a very real and well-documented set of circumstances wherein increased efficiency of a product or process actually leads to increased consumption due to price elasticity. The whole article is well worth reading, but I would like to draw note to one of the last sentences as a way to ...


4

I think pollution is part of the "cycle of life", so to speak. What is unsustainable is unmanageable amounts of pollutants.


4

The issue with answering this question is that there are inherent assumptions in how one creates a boundary for answering. For example, Voreno's answer suggests comparing two similar products in terms of the eco-footprint of their lifecycle. This is sound, but assumes that use of any product is warranted, and that levels of use and maintenance are fixed. ...


4

However, in the cases of wind, solar, and geothermal, this isn't so obvious -- nothing is being used up (at least not in a measurable quantity) which would need to be renewed. Furthermore, there's no need to manage wind, solar, and geothermal energy -- it isn't possible, on human scales, to overuse these. For wind and solar there isn't a "store" ...


4

Yes, to a certain extent. In economics this is called the 'rebound effect'. The rebound effect is that the effectiveness of a new techology or measure is reduced because it is counter-acted by other parts of the system. To give an example: people who insulate their house tend to keep their house at a higher temperature than before the insulation was done. ...


4

The social signals you send might well be more important than the economic ones. Consumers are not rational. Look at what people spend money and time on - it does not make them happier. We know what causes mental well being (such as these five steps). So people's consumption is highly illogical and does not follow economic theories of maximizing happiness. ...


4

they remove the centralised middle man from individuals transactions Indeed. However, this doesn't mean that the resulting system is more sustainable. people will be able to use a more secure version. Security is not the #1 concern with BTC. I would be much more worried about volatility. Providing security is an engineering exercise. Stability, however, ...


3

I agree with both of the responses above. Primarily the statement from user18: "Still, most of the time, recycling is effective in reducing the demand for raw products and energy. This is especially true when the recycled objects are made from substances that takes very long to regenerate, such as oil (of which all plastics are made)." And Chad's comment ...


3

Products and processes that provide a benefit while consuming resource(s) at a rate less than those resources are produced are sustainable. Those that consume any resources at a rate that higher than that resources rate of production, but lesser than in common practice are "more sustainable". Those resources that are non-renewable, or renew at very low ...


3

I think the obvious counterargument is that if we all grow the most efficient crops (i.e. with the most outputs to the fewest inputs), we can achieve sustainability easier and therefore biodiversity gets in the way of sustainability the way localizing the economy does. The problem though is that efficiency comes at the cost of safety margins and safety ...


3

I don't think it's as simple as two contexts. Just taking "sustainable" in the sense used by environmentalists, corporate "sustainability policy" covers everything from the goals of an organic farming co-op through to the greenwash applied by the nuclear industry. These days almost every company has a sustainability policy, just as they have a policy against ...


3

By opposition, what is not sustainable is unsustainable. So that is what makes, for instance, in a closed system, something uses more energy than it gives some back. (It's like if you were spending more money than your incomes, that can't be sustainable) To me, at least, sustainability is only defined by us like being the thing the less unsustainable as ...


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