How to Plan Short-term and Long-term Sustainability Goals
Adopting sustainable practices is clearly a responsibility for everyone. We all interact with the environment and, as such, we need to protect it. This is something we’ve known for a long time and yet the fact remains we’re teetering on the precipice edge of a climate emergency.
One thing we need to accept is we can’t hope to succeed with some sporadic and improvised “green” activities. There needs to be structured approaches across every facet of our society. Some of these will be goals we must hit in the long term. Others will be more immediate. Indeed, the latter can be instrumental in driving us toward the former.
But how can we best go about planning and implementing short-term and long-term sustainability goals? Let’s take a look at some important and practical points for consideration.
As individuals, it can sometimes feel as though your sustainability efforts lack impact. It’s no wonder so many people across the world feel overwhelmed about their ability to drive change. Indeed, a recent study found 45% of those surveyed experienced climate anxiety in their day-to-day lives. It’s important to remember, with planning and commitment, individual efforts can have a powerful cumulative impact.
In the short term, your goals should be directed toward regularly examining and improving your environmental, ethical, and social behavior. Take an honest look at individual areas of your life. Don’t try and change everything at once; this can be too overwhelming.
Consider your shopping habits. Are you avoiding products with single-use packaging? Are you researching the ethical standards of the stores or producers you invest in with your purchases? Look at your family’s food habits to consider areas of wastage and excessive environmental pressure. Make plans each month for which areas you want to examine and start to build such considerations into your lifestyle.
In the long-term, however, you can plan to invest in a more environmentally-sustainable home. Research upgrades and create a budget with milestones you want to hit over time. This doesn’t have to be limited to better insulation or a solar power installation. Improving the water quality in your home can ensure a healthier and more sustainable supply. This in turn reduces the potential for food waste, allows you to grow healthier garden vegetables, and minimizes the pressure on the healthcare system. Understanding the knock-on effects of your home improvements can help you make more informed sustainable choices.
Businesses are among the key influencers of environmental damage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industry is responsible for 24% of U.S. total greenhouse emissions. This is to say nothing of the generation of waste and funding of unethical labor practices perpetuating poverty in developing countries. As such, if you hold a position of leadership in a business, you must make plans for meaningful change.
In the short term, start making more mindful use of your capital. Buy energy-efficient lighting and select carbon-neutral electricity providers. If your company has a fleet of vehicles, start moving away from fossil fuels. Various factors can contribute to whether you should purchase electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrid vehicles. This includes the availability of charging stations in your local area and whether your local climate is optimal for long battery life. Make these considerations part of your quarterly budgeting and develop company-wide protocols surrounding them.
When it comes to long-term planning, it’s vital to look at the collective impact of your actions. Your business may well be an independent entity, but it is part of a wider and more environmentally-damaging industry. It is, therefore, vital to start forming coalitions with industry partners and competitors.
As an industry, aim to agree to ethical and environmental standards for all operations. Commit to researching greener solutions and boycotting suppliers that contribute to deforestation and excessive pollution. Most importantly, hold one another accountable for mistakes and work together on solutions. By collaborating on making your standardized practices more sustainable, you can influence a positive shift.
When communities decide to work together, they are powerful tools for lasting change. We’ve seen this repeatedly in social issues where activism influences government policy. By engaging your community in planning and executing sustainability goals, you can join others in making a lasting difference.
In the short term, it’s important to understand what the key sustainability challenges are in your local area. Wherever possible, neighbors, local businesses, and community leaders should form review boards together. Reach out to locals and survey what the general understanding of sustainable practices and accessible green technology is. Examine what elements in your geographical area are particularly vulnerable to environmental damage. Identify the key sources of negative impact.
From here, communities can start to form dedicated non-profit organizations to tackle these specific issues. This approach is usually most practical because it gives focus to specific projects and allows for charitable fundraising. It also creates a dedicated team to not just address issues but maintain good practices. Not to mention local businesses can gain tax breaks by donating to these formal organizations.
In the long term, the community plan should be directed toward meaningful power shifts. The most important environmental decisions will be made at government levels. As such, there needs to be a commitment to supporting leaders prioritizing sustainability.
Communities can collaborate in identifying the most positive candidates for government office. This should be at the local, state, and federal levels. Locals can help to fund political campaigns, nurture more ethical candidates, and better direct their voting power. In the long term, these efforts can help to ensure those in power are those communities can trust to protect the planet for generations to come.
There’s no doubt there is an urgent need to implement more sustainable standards across society. As such, it’s vital to commit to making improvements as individuals, business leaders, and communities. By recognizing what types of short- and long-term sustainability goals can have the most impact, you can be instrumental in having a cumulative impact on the wellbeing of the planet. Start making meaningful changes today in your own life, in your commercial decisions, and by connecting with your neighbors.