5 Sustainability Myths Debunked
Created at: Oct 26, 2021
Last updated: Oct 26, 2021
You see it emblazoned on shop windows on the high street or your friend’s chatting to you about becoming vegan. It’s a word we’re now hearing and seeing everywhere, but what does “sustainability” really mean?
With a word and concept that is so widespread, there are bound to be some misconceptions. We’ve decided to take a look at a few common assumptions and see to what extent they are truly facts or myths.
Carbon offsetting is a great way to combat global warming
True & False
Carbon offsetting is a process where the emissions you create are balanced out by supporting initiatives that absorb the equivalent emissions.
In some cases, the root issue of needing to reduce the emissions created in the first instance aren’t addressed, which could make carbon offsetting a form of greenwashing. However, if effort has been made to reduce emissions and use recycled materials, carbon offsetting can be a great way to balance out the remaining emissions that can’t be reduced in another way.
“Sustainability” is a synonym for “green”
Both words focus on a desire to protect the Earth and its natural resources, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
“Green” relates to the ‘protection of the environment’ making it an extremely vague term, whereas “sustainable” is defined as ‘using methods that do not harm the environment so that natural resources are still available in the future’. Both are important, but one clearly reviews data and takes active steps to protect the environment.
Recycling is pointless as it ends up in landfill anyways
True & False
The recycling industry has had its scandals in the past. News reports have shown that some recycling ends up in landfills or gets burned. Reducing and reusing resources is still the way to go, but recycling should still be a big part of being more sustainable as well.
For one, “we need to recycle to ensure demand, because demand will lead to improvement”. Furthermore, a lot of recycled products are worked into newly manufactured products ensuring that there’s no need to produce more plastic or cut down more trees.
Tote bags are the best carrier bags to help the environment
According to a 2018 study by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, a tote bag needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its environmental impact. Cotton needs large amounts of energy and water to be produced and are extremely difficult to recycle, further reducing their environmental credentials.
A study by the Environmental Agency in 2011 does suggest that a cotton bag that’s used 131 times makes it a better choice than a plastic carrier bag. So, use the few you do have on rotation and don’t accumulate more than you need.
You need to be vegan or vegetarian to save the planet
The general narrative is that plant-forward diets are the best ways to lessen your environmental impact.
There are, however, many people who can’t adopt a fully vegan lifestyle, whether it be for health purposes, accessibility, or other reasons.
Furthermore, not all vegetable cultivation is environmentally friendly. Some produce needs to travel a long way whereas others require a lot of energy and water. It’s important to keep food miles to a minimum and to buy local and seasonal food on top of reducing your meat and dairy consumption where possible.