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Earth Day 2022 – busting common sustainability myths

22 April 2022

Myths can be inspiring and spark new ideas if they are colorful stories with interesting characters to which we can relate. But when myths are just plain piffle, they’re no use to anyone. And sustainability myths can be maleficent.

To mark Earth Day 2022, I would like to bust some of the most common myths about sustainability. Buckle up as we go myth hunting!

Myth 1: The damage is done – our environmental situation is beyond hope of repair

The earth has been affected by increased human-made carbon emissions causing climate change, which has caused increasingly frequent severe weather events. However, our environmental situation is not beyond the hope of repair, and two main things we can do is mitigate and adapt to address the climate changes.

Mitigation means reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by measuring and accounting for carbon emissions and taking steps to decarbonize to prevent further climate change.

Adaptation means changing our actions and behaviors to adapt to the climate and environmental changes we have seen so far.

The 2015 Paris agreement, signed by 195 countries, commits the world to act to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade. If we use every means at our disposal, we can address this with real impact. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that says we have started to “bend the curve” in GHG emissions downwards encourage us.

Myth 2: Climate change and other environmental challenges are not affecting me personally

Climate change and environmental challenges are affecting us all personally.

For example, increasing droughts in North America and Europe may cause increasing crop failure, food shortages, and increased costs. Since we all must eat, this is an important personal effect of climate change.

Severe heatstroke, caused by increasing temperatures, is a serious issue in India, Australia, and other countries and regions in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Heatstroke can be debilitating or, at worst, deadly and is another direct personal effect of climate change.

In Guatemala, increased rainy seasons with severe torrential downpours, followed by dry periods, have affected maize growth. This has seen people migrating to different areas or even other countries – another direct personal effect of climate change.

Myth 3: OK, there is a crisis, but I can’t make a difference in my ordinary life. Governments and enterprises must do it

Governments and enterprises, of course, have the most resources and access to levers like regulation, laws, or large-scale investment to address climate change.

However, every individual can make a difference in their personal lives to solve the climate crisis.

There are many decisive steps we can take. For example, we can make a difference by changing our diet to support sustainable biodiversity and foodstuffs that are sustainably grown and ethically sourced.

We can reduce energy consumption, use energy-efficient appliances, choose renewable and low carbon energy from utility companies, and turn the dial on heating or cooling.

We can make a difference by using cost-effective insulation, shading, and natural ventilation on the best components possible in buildings, such as effective double glazing. Finally, we can choose a bike over car, plant trees to offset carbon emissions, and protect our local biodiversity and ecosystems.

We can also make an impact by joining groups in our communities, supporting and helping with government actions to make changes that lead to climate adaptation and mitigation.

Myth 4: Sustainability is too expensive

On the contrary, unsustainability is too expensive!

Sustainability is the best and only option we have to protect our earth now and in the future. It is an empowering, exciting approach and the best financial, social, and environmental investment we can make.

Sustainability and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are the most valuable investments we will ever make. The solutions that we can apply to sustainability are very cost-effective, and we have a precious opportunity to ingrain sustainability into everything we do.

For example, insulating a hot water tank pays for itself in a month or two. Changing a diet to a more sustainable plant-based diet reduces the cost of generally more expensive meat and the environmental impact of meat production. Not to mention it is great for our health. Using your bike means not filling your tank – with petrol prices increasing, this is also a cost-effective way to improve health and mental wellbeing.

The cost of unsustainability is measured in pounds, dollars, yen, and euros and in physical and mental health. Sustainability is the only way to ensure the growth of our countries’ environmental health, the decarbonization of the world, and the vibrant health of our planet and the people who live here.

Myth 5: Sustainability means lowering our standard of living

Sustainability means raising and changing our standard and way of living by allowing and supporting a just transition from our present fossil fuel-based economies to a future sustainability-based environment, economy and ecosystem. This system will be able to thrive based on the ESG approach – environmental, social, and governmental pillars working together to support and improve the standard of living for everyone.

The 17 United Nations sustainable development goals or SDGs were set up and 2015 are in and are intended to be achieved by 2030 what is the future global development framework.

The SDGs include zero hunger, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, climate action, life below water, life on land, and peace and justice.

Sustainability means changing for the better in every way– its raison d’etre.

Every day is Earth Day!

Sustainability means thinking about all the approaches we can take as citizens of the world to protect the earth in every way that we can.

In this way, we can all be involved and directly address climate change, support biodiversity, help overcome every environmental challenge we face as the human race, and look after our unique, alive, precious, and wonderful earth.

To read more articles from Capgemini’s Business Services team on sustainability and carbon accounting, visit the sustainability section in our latest edition of Innovation Nation.

Jim Harvey is the Global Process Owner for Carbon Accounting and Sustainability at Capgemini’s Business Services. He works on developing carbon accounting, ESG, and sustainability solutions to help Capgemini’s clients shape the future of their business operations in a sustainable way.