Sustainability can be defined as the practice of meeting the needs of the current generation without degrading or destroying the natural resources (e.g. water, soil, biodiversity, oil, minerals) and natural services (e.g. flood control, air purification, pollination) that future generations will also need. Our lives and economies are dependent on natural capital, which is made up of these natural resources and natural services, and the energy provided by the sun. Our natural capital provides biological income in the form of renewable resources (e.g. soil, the sun's energy, animals, plants). Just as every investor knows, we should invest our capital and live off of the interest, or income, it provides. To live sustainably, we need to do the same: protect our natural capital and live off our biological income.
To be truly sustainable, we need to address sustainability at the economic, environmental and society levels. According to the United Nations and the World Bank, the developed countries of the world (US, Japan, most of Europe, Australia and Canada) make up about 18% of world population, yet use about 88% of the world's resources and produce about 75% of the world’s waste and pollution. Since sustainability and environmental protection are inseparably linked, it is critical to address the inequity of resource use, especially for less developed or developing countries, as poverty and environmental degradation go hand in hand. On an individual level, it is important to realize that our resources are not limitless and so should be used in a manner that promotes their conservation.
A big part of environmental protection is environmental stewardship, an ethic that the Town of Hilton Head Island has adhered to since its incorporation in 1983.
Environmental Stewardship means that each person takes an active interest in protecting the natural resources and natural services in the environment in which they live, and in fostering the health of that environment. It includes building in concert with nature, and using natural services as "green infrastructure" to keep our communities healthy.
There are so many easy ways to become more sustainable. We are all creatures of habit, and changing our behavior takes some time. Small steps are key, and once you find how easy each is, you will be surprised how quickly you can make a positive difference in protecting our environment for your family and your planet. Please explore our website for tips and information on sustainability.