Conversations surrounding sustainability have gained huge momentum over the past couple of years. It has gone from a notion predominantly limited to academic circles and policymakers to being a concept more and more people are engaging with in some way.

There is no doubt that this has come at a moment we need at most. Yet with such a spike in interest, it is easy for the principles that sit at its core to be overshadowed. Sustainability is so much more than going zero waste, reducing our meat intake, buying ethical clothing, switching off the lights (as we have been told to do for years), using less water etc. To prevent it becoming something that does little more than offset consumer guilt, we need to engage with what it actually means.

There are three pillars to sustainability: environmental protection, social equality and economic stability. Perhaps more easily remembered as people, planet, and profit.

Ocean waves

To support the needs of the human population now while also protecting the needs of future generations these pillars need to coexist. We need to engage with all of them, not just one of them. Sustainability is multi-dimensional, it is about the environment, but it is not just about the environment.


It is about buying local, but recognising that this has implications for countries that rely on exporting produce. It is about turning away from fast fashion, but understanding that millions of people, predominantly women, rely on the garment industry for an income. It is about being conscious of how often we fly, but remembering that some countries depend largely on tourism to support their economy.

While conscious consumerism is a huge step in the direction we need to be going, we also need to be conscious of the global reach our decisions have. We are global citizens embedded in a global system.

Woman sat on mountains

If sustainability is going to be sustainable, then it can’t just be the latest buzzword or the most current PR campaign. To ensure we don’t take one step forward and two steps back we must engage with what it truly means.

This blog post was contributed by Emma. Emma is a London based sustainability advocate currently working at Mindful Chef. After studying sustainability throughout her Geography degree at KCL she is now keen to keep the momentum around the topic going, while ensuring we don’t lose touch with what is at its roots.

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