We constantly hear about climate change, sustainability, green issues and net zero. As a species we are very good at inventing things like electric cars, recycling procedures, wind turbines and biodegradable plastics but they all miss the point. We try and solve the problems of sustainability by creating more and more things. Effective sustainability means less but better. I would like to claim the credit for this phrase but I can’t. If you want to understand it in detail please read Greg McKeown’s excellent book “Essentialism”.
It is in the area of effective sustainability where I can add my bit though and here’s a story to illustrate it. An ancient aunt of mine was and expert in effective sustainability before anyone even dreamed up the phrase. She was not well off at all but the small number of things she owned were always the best. She had few clothes but those she did have were of the best quality and lasted forever. The same applied to everything in the house, everything lasted and even the odd thing that didn’t survive for decades was capable of being repaired.
Today we don’t care, we pursue the god of plenty. People buy clothes weekly or monthly and throw them away just as frequently. They then claim to be environmentally friendly because those clothes are manufactured from biodegradable fabrics and can be recycled. Manufacturers and marketers constantly want us to update, be it mobile phones, our cars, furniture or almost anything you can name. Furniture is a case in point. In less environmentally aware times furniture was not made to last for years but for generations. Now, with our so called green (biodegradable) hats on we think it is fabulous if the sofa lasts ten years or the fridge five and instead of making things last we make them recyclable. That’s not sustainable.
If we really want to save the planet then we must adopt an attitude of less but better, quality not quantity. Yes it will cost us more but we will spend less often. Yes it will reduce the amount of “stuff” produced, but that’s the point. If you want to work in a truly sustainable environment then forget the push for increasing productivity and join the movement for increasing effectiveness.
Remember, turnover is no indication of success but profit is. Less but better can be very profitable for businesses and individuals if done correctly.
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