Sustainability for Ordinary People

This piece is for all Sustainability fans, newbies, virgins and pros alike. It’s for people who want to grasp what this concept entails and how they can be more sustainable in their daily lives. Sustainability was an alien concept in the 1990s but today it is linked to almost every issue, making headlines on daily newspapers and blasted throughout the internet on social media. As a buzzword, it has been going around for over a decade and although I am desperately trying not to get too technical here (see Technically Speaking at the bottom of this post), it’s important to define what it really is.

Sustainability, simply put, is about doing things right, equitably and mostly, with common sense. The dramatic increase in our global population has led to unprecedented levels of consumption, which places a heavy demand on the earth’s limited supply of finite natural resources. Sustainability calls for the thoughtful use and conservation of our resources, biodiversity and natural ecosystems. Our throwaway culture has been spurred on by unsustainable commercial activity and the plundering of natural resources. Demand for products have been craftily “created” by companies which then leads to people overconsuming without thinking.

Today, people are more aware about what Sustainability is – but there are some misconceptions about what it stands for. Some people still have the perception that Sustainability is somehow associated with being a tree hugger, hippie or worse still, going back to the cave man ages.

The era of over consumption and greed is over. The world is changing fast and there is hardly any time to lose. Climate change has never been more of an issue as the world recognizes that more and more calamities occur due to weather changes. This is a reality close to home for Singapore, which is a small, low-lying state extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

So what do all these global issues mean for you in your daily life? Sustainability refers to your lifestyle, which includes conducting businesses and advancing local and global development in a way that respects the limitations of the natural environment, human rights and empowers people. Sustainability requires an inclusive, long-term approach to investing in better solutions that benefit everyone.

The good news is that making better choices for your home and family is actually pretty easy. It’s more about creating habits that can be useful in daily life.


“The greatest threat to our planet is thinking someone else will save it.”
Robert Swan OBE

Here are our top 6 quick tips to get you started on being a sustainability warrior.

  1. Goodbye to plastics. At the rate we are going, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Always recycle but also think consumption over recycling. Use mason jars over plasticware, wooden and metal utensils for your kitchen. These can be reused again and again. Remember to bring your shopping home in a reusable shopping bag and not in many little plastic bags from the grocery store.
  2. Eat less meat. Agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than the whole transportation sector) Try experimenting with vegetarian days and choose local and responsibly farmed produce to help reduce your impact on the environment, be kinder to animals and become a lot healthier overall.
  3. Care and share (transportation, that is). Heat waves in spring and snow in summer? Well, maybe not snow in Singapore, but that would be global warming. Do your bit to help by taking the bus / train / MRT or car share to work. Public transport in Singapore is efficient, clean and massively cheaper then private options. Even opting for a car share with friends or colleagues can help to reduce your carbon footprint. Better still, get fit and ride your bike.
  4. Lights off. The greenhouse gasses released from electricity production damages the environment. Switch off (and this includes lights and appliances) to help against climate change, acid rain and injuries to wildlife – as well as saving you a fair bit on your electricity bill.
  5. Water equals life. 780 million people around the globe don’t have access to clean water and thousands die daily due to lack of it. Globally our access to clean water is in decline, yet those that have it still waste it. Managing your water consumption at home by taking shorter showers, turning off taps, using energy efficient washers and fixing leaks in your home all helps.
  6. Be a savvy consumer. Industrialization on a global scale drives most areas of concern within climate change. When buying products, do your homework and check out whether the company you’re funding is environmentally-minded and where possible, support local producers and small businesses.

Ordinary People is embarking on a quest for sustainability know-how. Find out more about each of our top 6 tips in our up-coming monthly articles covering everything from water, electricity, farming and up-and-coming companies to watch for that support your health, pocket and the environment.

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For those of you who are interested in a more technical explanation, Sustainability is an inclusive, encompassing and collaborative concept that focuses on the linkages between three key pillars: environmental, economic and social. There is compelling evidence that increased manmade economic activity has led to the destruction of ecosystems in both land and marine habitats. The connection between this environmental degradation and increased economic development has led to the evolution of discourse on sustainable development. This was kick started when the Brundtland Report (Our Common Future, report by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development published in 1987) defined Sustainable Development as the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


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  • Thanks for sharing. It’s important to instill and reverse habits of over consumption and something we as parents can instil in our children’s habits and their way of living. Every bit counts in preserving what is left for generations to come.

    • So glad you liked the article! We appreciate your feedback and feel exactly the same when it comes to educating our little ones. In fact, an article geared towards sustainability for kids could be something for us to look at. Hope you enjoy the next few sustainable articles we post in this series too.