Credit: Pexels / Anna Tarazevich

In the latest in a series of articles about current conservation issues, experts at natur&ëmwelt, a leading conservation NGO in Luxembourg, shared their insights with about living sustainably.

As the NGO explained, Earth Overshoot Day highlighted the fact that we are exceeding the Earth's capacity in generating resources. Luxembourg's contribution in particular - the country's Overshoot Day remains the second earliest (20 February 2024) in the world - should make us question the impact of our way of living, natur&ëmwelt added.

Natur&ëmwelt volunteer Vanessa Bock helped collect the relevant information from the NGO for this article, which introduces the concept of sustainability. Let us start at the beginning: what is sustainable and conscious living? What does sustainability mean in the 21st century?

Natur&ëmwelt: Sustainability underlies a basic principle: it is the capacity to maintain and support a process over time (long term), hence preventing the depletion of natural resources. The classic definition provided by the United Nations considers the conditions in which humans and the natural environment can coexist in harmony to support the present and future generations by “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own”. The transition from fast-paced, consumerist, constantly productive lifestyles towards an environmentally conscious life is a slow but moving one. Conversations will continue to flourish and permeate our reality. Making environmentally safe choices aims at reducing our individual and collective impact by making changes that decrease the environmental impact. We already know that our current lifestyles are not sustainable. How can we take that first step? How can we start?

Natur&ëmwelt: First step is being aware of one's own consumption - that is being cognisant about one's impact. Sustainability does not necessarily mean cutting everything out (as we know this radical approach is not sustainable) nor is it about living without consumption or becoming the ideal green consumer. It is about minimising our impact: it asks us to consume less and as such becoming responsible consumers.  Meaning: understanding our own consumption patterns, how much we consume, and the reasons why. How can I consume meaningfully? What does that mean for me? It is all about asking the right questions: Do I need this product? Do I identify with the brand/company? Why? Why not? Are there alternatives? Am I comfortable supporting this company? Do I need the latest and newest smartphone every other year? This encouragement to assess the necessity and value of one's purchases leads us towards this shift. Do not guilt yourself when everything does not come into place immediately. Habit changing takes time. Be ready to explore. Eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, sustainable living have all become buzzwords in an endless debate about living sustainably. How can we prevent falling into this trap of green capitalism (capitalism in a different form) to be confronted by this idea that not everything that is marketed as “green” is actually green?

Natur&ëmwelt: The more conversations we have about sustainability, the more greenwashing comes into play. When you consider a purchase, do some research about the company's policies and brands and their initiatives. How transparent are they with their information they provide? Information like this should be readily available. Despite increased awareness and efforts to promote sustainable living, what are the remaining barriers to living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle?

Natur&ëmwelt: Overall, there are multiple barriers that prevent individuals and organisations from living a more sustainable lifestyle. From the age-old argument that we have always done it this way to the high cost of sustainable products and services, convenience factors, along with a lack of infrastructure, time and motivation, as well as misleading marketing strategies, may deter some individuals from making more sustainable choices. Addressing these obstacles will require collective effort from all parties involved - individuals, business and government alike - making conscious living more accessible and affordable. At the end of the day, it comes down to choices - individual and collective alike. What choice can I make that both contributes to the wellbeing of the earth, my personal health and that of others? What mindful choices can I [make] that align with my values as well as the ethical standards? There are three pillars of sustainability: environment, economy and society. Each of these are important for a paradigm shift. How can we make that step?