Sustainable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal heating are starting to take off. But which ones are best to use? Are they all truly "sustainable"? For example, some renewable energy technologies require batteries, which require mined metals and minerals that are non-renewable.
Many "sustainable" technologies are incredibly waste-intensive during their manufacture, distribution, or at the end of their lifecycle - winding up in landfill sites leaching toxins that may eventually find its way into our groundwater.
Sustainable means thinking about the entire lifecycle of a product, not just how much energy it will save during its usage.
- How much energy went into its manufacture?
- How much waste was created?
- How far did it travel?
- Where will it go when it is done being useful? Will it wind up in a landfill, or can it be recycled?
- Was it created, distributed and disposed of in a manner respectful of all human rights?
I add this last point because, to me, true sustainabilty will not bear a product made using slave labour or disposed of in a way that will toxify other humans.
The average product makes at least 10 stops along the way before it ever reaches our stores and we throw it away when its finished its use with little regard for where it will truly end up. This is not being sustainable.
It's time to stop being 'greenwashed' as a consumer, and instead really focus on being truly sustainable. This won't happen overnight, and will take some trial and error. It will take companies looking into the entire lifecycle of their products and finding ways to reduce their impact overall.
If you find faulty "green" claims out there you can report them under the Competition Act.
Rebecca Sargent is a sales representative with Century 21 Home Realty Inc. based in Waterloo, ON.