Q. What is sustainability?
A. It's the ability to maintain something over and over again until forever.
Q. What is sustainable living?
A. It is living your life in a way that works towards reducing our dependency on endless consumption of the Earth's resources. It encompasses a vast pantheon of real world practices that exist between making individual changes and working towards community and national efforts to reverse the harm that has been done to our environment since colonization and the industrial revolution. There is no RIGHT way to live sustainably. It is a deeply personal set of choices.
Q. Is sustainability the same as eco-friendly?
A. There are lots of ways to define "eco-friendly" this but generally it means not harmful to the environment. Sustainable methods and eco-friendly methods may overlap but they are not always the same thing. Eco-friendly methods may not be immediately harmful, but they do not address the harm already done to the environment nor do they aspire to repair that damage for future generations.
Q. Is it better to be sustainable, eco-friendly, all natural, or zero waste? I don't really know where to start.
A. Working towards any of the above systems is a GOOD thing. It's not a competition or a race or a club to join. There are very specific nuances to each method of living, but if you're making new changes to your lifestyle then it's best to work on making individual changes one at a time and not worry too much about which title to put on it.
Q. What is zero waste?
A. Zero waste was originally a design concept and commercial term describing an envisioned end of the product before it has even been created. It includes a plan for the item to return to soil, or reuse when its lifecycle is complete.
Culturally, it has become a movement that encourages individuals to send zero waste to the landfill.
I will be blunt here: This is a pretty extreme way to live and it's problematic in a lot of ways. I encourage everyone to create less waste and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, but I don't think I'll ever promote zero waste culture in this space. I've lived it. Zero waste culture is very oppressive, judgemental, restrictive, and unforgiving. It tends to place blame and responsibility solely on the individual and it encourages people to view every single object that is plastic as evil and every natural object as good, and this simply is not correct.
Q. So is it better to use all natural things or reusable plastic things?
A. This is a complex question but I'll try my best to boil it down to my own philosophy. OUR PLANET REQUIRES BIODIVERSITY TO THRIVE. Therefore, natural choices are actually not best if they require the destruction of biodiversity in order to exist. Biodegradable plastics are made of corn, for example. Corn that gets dowsed in pesticides and gets planted on soil that was once lush and thriving wild space. Wild spaces produce plants and animals that live in relationship with each other to create the AIR WE BREATHE.
There are many more ways that relying solely on natural resources causes MORE harm to our planet than focusing on building systems that reuse what we've already created. In this space, I will always offer choices that are a balance between realistically sustainable for individuals and products that are sustainable to the health of our planet.