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Aspects of Sustainable Living and Innovations thereby to ensure sustainability- A Literature Review

Updated: Aug 25


Aspects of Sustainable Living and Innovations


Introduction


Sustainable living has become a very important responsibility of every individual on the earth in order to make their life comfortable, healthy and happy; to preserve natural resources for future human and non-human generations, to maintain natural equilibrium and to minimise environmental disasters. Over the recent years, there is an alarming increase in world’s population mainly in developing countries which has increased the demand of resources thereby increasing industrial activities resulting ultimately in environmental degradation.


Human interventions have caused a negative impact on earth ecosystems and therefore witnesses extreme climate changes, global warming, pollution and increased frequency of natural and environmental disasters such as floods, draughts, landslides, explosions. In the present scenario, it is necessary to create new ways of living and to explore alternative standards so as to create a sustainable life which is ecologically balanced. Sustainability has been defined as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own goals” in the Brundtland report by the UN Commission (United Nations, 1987).


Earlier also there have been exhaustive arguments between activists who advocated that if industrial activities and use of resources is reduced then it would impact economic growth. UN report in 1987 and ‘Earth Summit’, 1992 in Rio de Janeiro globally clarified that sustainable development means to create equilibrium between use of natural resources and their preservation. It was an alarm to all government organisations over the world to take measures for judicial use of resources and implement the policies to make sure that economic decisions should not ignore environmental impact (www.UN.org).


An individual can practice sustainable living by adopting an environmental friendly lifestyle; this includes fulfilment of one’s basic needs by judicial use of resources of energy, water and food, by reducing the production of waste and environmental pollutants and not jeopardising the resources for future generations. There has to exist a symbiotic relationship between human lifestyle and earth’s ecological cycles (Winter, 2007). Sustainable lifestyle depends on the personal choice and action of an individual or family as a consumer (Kahle, & Gurel-Atay, n.d.).


For example, an individual might choose to walk or cycle to workplace which is healthy and environment friendly mode of transport in contrast to an individual who drives a car for even shorter distances. There exists a wide diversity amongst lifestyles, therefore global sustainable design and development plans are needed to promote sustainable living. Sustainable living practices positively impacts nature, humanity, society and culture. The balance between the interactions of three interrelated segments the Society, the Economy and the Environment has been represented in a conceptual model for the achievement of sustainable development in the world (Barton, 2000; Du Plessis, 2000)


The different aspects of sustainable living such as food, water, energy, economy and shelter needs to be focussed upon for building up plans and strategies for sustainable development. In order to attain sustainability, it is important to have a realistic view of current environmental problems and to identify appropriate steps to rectify them. The source of environmental problems is mostly consumerism. A small change in personal lifestyle can have a great positive impact. For example, use of solar devices, composting kitchen waste, recycling paper and wood, altering modes of transportation and much more.


Energy in Sustainable development


The key to sustainable development is energy. There is a huge demand of energy nowadays in both developed as well as developing countries. There are challenges to address energy poverty and development of renewable and efficient modern energy resources which are economically reasonable, socially sound and environment friendly. Clean and efficient energy is required to provide clean water, food, sanitation, lighting, power, education, transport, healthcare, communication, agriculture, industry and much more. Therefore, secure access to sustainable, reliable and affordable modern energy resources is important to reduce poverty, enhance productivity and promote economic growth.


Fossil fuel energy resources are finite and are fast depleting. Studies have predicted if current trend of their usage continues, they may get exhausted in fewer than 45 years and world will be under major energy crisis (International Energy Agency, 2007). Moreover, increased use of these resources as a primary source of energy causes environmental problems such as pollution, global warming and climatic changes. Therefore, these should be replaced with clean and renewable energy resources to reduce carbon footprint and release of greenhouse gases (Arto, Capellán-Pérez, Lago, Bueno, & Bermejo, 2016). Renewable energy sources such as solar power, tidal and wave power, wind power, hydropower, biofuels, geothermal, municipal waste are environmental friendly (Campbell, 1996) (Bajpai, & Dash, 2012).


Hydroelectric dams and geothermal power plants are the most reliable and cost effective resources of sustainable energy. The energy from the sun (solar energy) is harnessed to produce electricity (solar power) by use of photovoltaic cells or concentrated solar power systems (Partain, 2010). International Energy Agency has pointed out that by 2050, solar power would be the world’s largest source of electricity in the world. It is beneficial as it does not generate pollutants, individually accessible and portable. It has become cost effective as compared to fossil fuels with technological advances (International Energy Agency, 2014).


Solar hot water systems are being effectively used for domestic hot water and heating swimming pools. Solar heating and cooling systems, ventilation systems such as solar chimney are another way to harness solar energy and effectively used in commercial buildings (United States Department of Energy, 2008). Similarly, solar distillation plants (Tiwari, 2003) and solar water disinfection methods (World Health Organization, 2008) are used by many countries for potable water. Solar thermal energy can be stored using molten salt technology and further used to generate electricity, already being used in Spain and the U.S. (Ehrlich, 2014).


Besides this passive solar architecture of buildings (Butti, & Perlin, 1980) and greener urban planning could reduce air conditioning cost. Solar energy can also be used to reduce agricultural costs by using solar powered water pumps and drying mechanisms and also to enhance horticulture by using greenhouses and fruitwalls. Another innovation of use of solar energy is solar powered cars and boats. Auxillary power used by vehicles can be driven by solar cells such as battery charging, air conditioning, was described long back in 1991 (Garner, 1991).


Solar powered airplanes are also constructed. In 2015, Solar Impulse aircraft completed first round the world flight in 5 days and 5 nights without the use of fuel and emissions (Piccard, & Borschberg, 2015). Artificial photosynthesis is being developed to produce fuel (Hammarstorm, 2009) and working solar fuel plants are envisioned to be setup by 2050 in coastal metropolitan cities which would generate pure water as well (Gray, 2009). Artificial photosynthesis technology enables splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen directly from solar power developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nanosolars have been developed using nanotechnology which are highly cost effective ("Nanosolar: Solar Power at a Lower Cost", n.d.).


International Energy Association has regarded biofuel as a renewable and clean source of energy. Biodiesel production has increased over the years and is has proved to be beneficial alternative to fossil fuels ad microalgae has been considered as most renewable source of biodiesel production (Ahmad, 2011). Underwater tidal electricity generator has been developed to produce commercial amounts of electricity in a clean and safe manner (SeaGen Tidal System, 2008).


Water in sustainable living


Torretta, V. (2016) discusses the importance of water on earth and states the basicness and intertwining aspects of water being as a most important natural resource on the earth. The author has also discussed about the challenges that the world is facing due to the lack of water and its sustainability, hence raised the issue with sustainable development goals, thus asking private sector to participate in the development and revolutionizing the water sustainability. He further stated the need of having a holistic view or approach towards mitigating the water related problems and issues in order to develop a sustainable living.


According to the World Economic Forum (2015), the water problem and crisis is ranked number one on the basis of its impact on the sustainable living in future. This has alarmed the forces in order to take some innovative actions and propositions towards developing sustainability in the most critical aspect of ‘Water’.


The Third world centre for Water management (2001) stated that the one main solution to solve water problem is to combat poverty as water plays a major role towards healthy life, economic development and sustainable livelihood.


GWP (2000) has put forward the word by stating water as a resource as well as a main infrastructure sector and thus, put emphasis on its sustainable development. GWP (2000) has also innovated the ‘Water Comb Model’ that defines water as the central component with the complexities it faces with supply, usage and availability, thus leading to lack in sustainability.


IWRM (UNESCO-IHP and NARBO, 2009) is an innovative tool that explains the step by step process of water management with respect to sustainability. It describes an open ended program that unites several ends like stakeholders and managers for proper planning and development; social demands, population, cultural changes, climate changes and changes in the economic value of water. This process leads to a more coordinated approach towards maintaining and developing water sustainability.


UNESCO-IHP (2009) has also fostered an innovative tool for the water management and sustainable development called as ‘River basin Approach’. It is an upgraded model to earlier described IWRM that brings out a comprehensive approach towards the management and development of water at the sub basin, basin and aquifer level in order to achieve the state of sustainability. The basis of this approach is the basin level where the integration of up-streams, down-streams, ground water, surface level, water resources and total land use are facilitated to approach towards the proper blend of sustainability at all levels.


J.R.Julius, Dr.R.Angeline Prabhavathy, Dr. G.Ravikumar (2013) stated that due to rthe increase in population and demand of drinking water, there is big threat to water sustainability and is availability in the near future. Owing to his issue, the author considers rain water harvesting as an important tool to save and harvest water. Kim et al. (2005) proposed rain water harvesting is one of the best methods in recovering the earth’s hydrologic cycle, thereby ensuring a sustainable approach towards water protection and development.


Conclusion


Sustainability is the core element for healthy and wise living. Several aspects lead to the sustainable living out of which the researcher has researched upon the energy and water as the two important aspects. Energy is regarded as the key resource in today’s hi-tech living whereas the water is the most basic and important resource without which a human body or living beings cannot survive. The sustainability of these two aspects is really crucial for a healthy and sustainable living. Several innovations have come on the way to ensure and protect sustainability, thereby leading to its development. These innovations like fossil fuel energy, geothermal plants, hydroelectric plants and solar energy conservation cells for energy sector; and water comb model, IWRM, river basin model and rain water harvesting for water aspects serves as the strong pillars to support and develop sustainable living.

References


Ahmad, A. (2011). Microalgae as a sustainable energy source for biodiesel production: A review. Renewable And Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15, 584-593. http://dx.doi.org/:10.1016/j.rser.2010.09.018

Arto, I., Capellán-Pérez, I., Lago, R., Bueno, G., & Bermejo, R. (2016). The energy requirements of a developed world. Energy For Sustainable Development, 33, 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.esd.2016.04.001

Bajpai, P., & Dash, V. (2012). Hybrid renewable energy systems for power generation in stand-alone applications: A review. Renewable And Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(5), 2926-2939. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2012.02.009

Barton, H. (2013). Sustainable Communities (1st ed.). Routledge.

Butti, K., & Perlin, J. (1980). A golden thread (1st ed.). New York.

Campbell, S. (1996). Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities?: Urban Planning and the Contradictions of Sustainable Development. Journal Of The American Planning Association, 62(3), 296-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01944369608975696

Du Plessis, C. (2000). Cities and sustainability: sustaining our cultural heritage. In Cities and Sustainability: Sustaining Our Cultural Heritage. Sri Lanka, Kandalama: Brandon P, Lombardi P, Perera S (eds.).

Ehrlich, R. (2014). Renewable energy (1st ed.). Boca, Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Garner, I. (1991). Vehicle auxiliary power applications for solar cells. In Automotive Electronics.

Gray, H. (2009). Powering the planet with solar fuel. Nature Chemistry, 1, 7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchem.141

Hammarstorm, L. (2009). Artificial Photosynthesis and Solar Fuels. Accounts Of Chemical Research, 42(12), 1859-1860. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ar900267k

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Partain, L. (2010). Solar Cells and Their Applications, 2nd Edition (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons.

Piccard, B., & Borschberg, A. (2015). Solar Impulse Project. Retrieved 30 April 2017, from http://www.solarimpulse.com/our-story

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