Energy – the only commodity that gives human society the power to sustain its existence has been produced and consumed in an unsustainable manner. Physics, biology, economics, and chemistry: apart from other intersecting points, these scientific fields understand the essential truth about energy efficiency. Considering the definition on efficiency where the elemental premise is maximizing the energy outcome while producing minimum waste, we can safely conclude that the way human society has been sustaining its existence is still far from being efficient.
Overpopulation, deforestation, greenhouse gases, climate change, overfishing, water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution – almost all negative impacts humans have been imposing over the environment and the ecosystems to produce the energy are all waste by-products! The world consumption of energy has been increasing every year since 1982 and so has been the waste. Increasing life standards in developed and developing countries drive the energetic needs sky-high. Even though there are justified arguments on wrong and unsustainable energetic politics in developing countries, developed nations have much higher carbon footprint per capita, which only indicates that citizens in rich countries consuming higher and higher amounts of energy and goods produce more waste (The Shift Project Data Portal, 2014). With that being said, change is needed in both worlds.
Energy and goods demand would not be so scary if they did entail so much waste. Therefore, while the world is figuring out how to fully switch from fossil fuels to alternative sources of energy and efficiently secure the goods supply, it is wiser to focus on minimizing waste in the mean time.
An amazing tool that any entity can use, start today, and make a habit of is: reducing, reusing, and recycling (3Rs). The beneficial effects of applying the 3Rs :
- Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials
- Saves energy
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations
- Saves money
- Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
- Allows products to be used to their fullest extent (EPA, 2016)
The 3Rs are also incorporated in the G7’s Climate Change and Related Measures statement where it is evaluated as a measure with co-benefit where point 45 clearly states, “resource efficiency and the 3Rs offer an important opportunity to address gaps in often overlooked areas with significant GHG emissions, such as the supply chain of the manufacturing sector, while also increasing economic development and competitiveness.” (UN Climate Change Newsroom, 2016).
But the 3Rs do not stand alone anymore. It seems its economic value met its course in the economy. As the innovative and revolutionary ideas replace the old, the ground started shaking under the traditional economic model as well. The production of large quantities of cheap and easily accessible materials is being disrupted by the new restorative and regenerative course – the circulation economy (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015) This new economic direction is on its way to start boosting sustainable behavior in consumers and supporting the 3Rs. The timing could not have been better, even though many will argue time is the only thing we do not truly have. Delivering innovation through optimism holds the key to our future on this planet.
by Dana Brejakova – Research Manager – Climate Change The New Economy
Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy
EPA. (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-and-reusing-basics#benefits
The Shift Project Data Portal (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.tsp-data-portal.org/TOP-20-CO2-emitters-per-capita#tspQvChart
UN Climate Change Newsroom (2016). Retrieved from: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/g7-environment-ministers-communique-toyama-meeting/