Sustainable, eco, environmentally friendly, eco-chi, eco-shabby? What does this all really mean?
With people and businesses wanting to take care of our planet, there are many different words and phases used to communicate this dedication to the planet. It is getting confusing to really understand what each term truly means and what a business has done to be able to label themselves, environmentally friendly, eco, eco-chic, sustainable or environmentally aware.
Environmentally-friendly – This term refers to goods and services, guidelines and laws that are focussing on the minimal impact on the environment. Each country has different guidelines, so environmentally-friendly in Europe uses different critieria than the United States, Canada or South America. Environmentally-friendly is interchangable with other terms such as green, eco-friendly and nature focused. But it all boils down to a primary or really solitary focus on the environment.
An example of Environmentally-friendly is when you turn off the lights when they are not needed, when you turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, when you choose to use a cleaning product that does not harm the environment. Environmentally friendly is about the product or service or legislation and the the immediate effect it has on the environment and humans.
Sustainable is very different. It refers to human, cultural, environmental and economic well being, all of these not just one of these. Sustainability is about a long term commitment and responsibility to all aspects of life – environmental, economic, and social facets. It is about responsible management of resources both environmentally, culturally and socially.
Sustainability is managing all resources from the ground up. It is ensuring that all aspects of the environment are responsibly managed not just the end product. In the fishing industry it is about making sure that the boats that catch the fish do not harm the environment, that the fisherman do not over fish so that the marine environment becomes unbalanced, that the delivery of the fish is environmentally friendly and that the fish sellers practice good environmental practices. It is a holistic approach to maintaining humans and nature, from the beginning to end. It is not isolated instances of treating the environment and humans well. It is recognizing that that all systems social, environmental, cultural systems are respected and maintained.
Sustainability has more laws and regulations that have been defined on an international level then environmentally friendly. The United Nations has been a key player in developing the criteria and legislation to define and control of this term. Organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, anything Fairtrade and the Common Code for the Coffee Community are all a result of the international laws that have been developed around sustainability.
Oh the complication of definitions and execution of these terms
The complication of defining sustainable verses environmentally- friendly is that human, environmental, economic and societal aspects are so intertwined that is it almost impossible to be 100% sustainable globally. Hence the term being refined to sustainable development, where the goal is to build systems that help to sustain all of these four pillars equally, human, environmental, economic and social/cultural. Environmentally-friendly was introduced to show that a product or service was doing its best to focus on the environment as the primary and only pillar. Sustainable takes all the four pillars into account, environmental, human, societal or economic. Understanding the barriers to sustainability, people are breaking down the term sustainable into actionable and achievable actions. Locally grown, eco-friendly, environmentally-friendly are all partitions of sustainable.
Sustainability is a commitment that effects all aspects of a business
Casa de las Olas believes in sustainable development and takes all four pillars into consideration when making their service delivery choices. With the ocean on one side of the property and a fresh water cenote on the other, sand dunes and indigineous flora and fauna on the property, this juggling act of respecting environmental, human, economic and cultural/societal factors can be a challenge. But we do it!
For Casa de las Olas the environmental aspect is the closely integrated ecology of the area. Land, sea, fresh water, palm tree. orchids, flowers and native species are throughout the property. the human aspect is our guests, staff and the community. The societal/cultural aspect is the local Mayan community, Mexican community and the international community of visitors and residents. The economic aspect is the local, global and guest economies that we juggle each and every day.
But it makes our life exciting and is one of the reasons why we work and live where we do. Decisions that are easy for one business, can be a complicated decision for us. Some decisions that are hard for other businesses can be extremely easy for us. It is a delicate but thought provoking business management system that is second nature to us and our staff, and our guests.
Which of the four pillars do you take into consideration when making your daily, work or vacation decisions? Have you been able to balance all four; human, environmental, economic, and societal/cultural or are your focusing on one aspect and gradually including others? We would love to know how you balance these four pillars in your work, family and travel life. We learn from you and hopefully we can through over a few pointers as well.
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