Jaký je rozdíl mezi udržitelností a ekologií

What is the difference between sustainability and ecology?

The terms sustainability and ecology are starting to appear more frequently in everyday conversations. Often, they are considered synonyms. However, confusing these words is a mistake.

In this article, you will learn in detail what sustainability and ecology mean and what the difference between them is.

In short:

  • Sustainability – A concept that defines development as an activity covering current ecological, social, and economic needs without compromising the needs of future generations.
  • Ecology – A field of science concerned with the description and analysis of the relationships between organisms and their environment.

Therefore, it can be said that sustainability is an ideology and ecology is a science.

History of sustainability

The concept of sustainability first appeared in the study "Our Common Future". The study, which is also known as the Brundtland Report, was published by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.

The document highlighted the negative environmental impacts of economic growth and globalization.

Already in the 1980s, the Brundtland Report emphasized the focus on the growing problems caused by excessive industrialization and global population growth.

Sustainability today addresses the same issues. A new perspective is not just focusing on the challenges of the present, but also ensuring the future for future generations.

How to define sustainability

Sustainability can be simply defined as "the ability for continuous existence". However, sustainability is a relatively complex concept.

The most frequently cited definition of sustainability comes from the United Nations Commission for Environment and Development: "Sustainable development is development that ensures the fulfillment of the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Three pillars of sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic approach to growth that takes into account ecological, social, and economic aspects. Thus, sustainable growth is possible only by ensuring long-term prosperity across all three pillars.

Environmental protection

The pillar of environmental protection is built on ecological integrity. This means maintaining a balance between the consumption of natural resources and the rate of their renewal.

Unfortunately, not all natural resources are inexhaustible, so it is necessary to protect nature, use its resources rationally, and in the most renewable way possible.

Social equality

The pillar of social equality is built on solidarity among communities and nationalities ensuring sufficient equality in terms of living conditions, health, and education.

Social equality does not only mean securing general human rights and covering basic human needs but also enabling everyone access to natural resources to ensure health and safety for themselves and their family.

All of this should be guaranteed without discrimination against any human being. World and community leaders should not abuse their market and cultural positions to ensure equality for one group at the expense of another.

Economic viability

The economic pillar within the concept of sustainability is focused on generating wealth and economic growth for all without harming nature and limiting human rights.

Applying economic viability would mean that people around the world should be able to maintain their independence and access to resources needed to meet their needs.

What is a sustainable product

A sustainable product is one that provides environmental, social, and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment throughout its life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to disposal.

An example of a sustainable product could be toothpaste tablets in recyclable packaging produced under fair working conditions.

A sustainable product should:

  • Be made using only renewable resources – a sustainable product thus does not use raw materials, energy sources, and other production inputs that can be depleted.
  • Not harm the environment – The production, distribution, and consumption should consume the minimum necessary amount of energy and leave no non-decomposable waste. Almost every human activity leaves some footprint, hence environmentally responsible companies focus on minimizing negative impacts.
  • Be produced under fair conditions – Unfair conditions might include, for example, forced child labor or work in deliberately dangerous environments. Socially responsible companies provide all their workers with equally fair working conditions, create diversified work teams, and ensure workers have a voice in company decisions. Socially sustainable businesses also care for the health, well-being, and success of all people in the organization, as well as their dignified life in the city and country of residence.

What is Ecology

Ecology is a sub-discipline of biology that deals with the description and analysis of the relationships between organisms and their environment, including actions and reactions during their change.

Within ecology, the study mainly focuses on biodiversity, biomass, distribution, and populations of organisms. Ecology can also include the study of coexistence and competition between different animal species.

What is an ecological product?

An ecological product can be defined as a product that produces a minimum of negative impacts on the environment throughout its life cycle.

An ecological product can be certified as such. The conditions vary depending on the entity granting the certification. For example, a chocolate bar may be considered ecological by one certificate if at least 95% of its ingredients are from organic farming, but another certificate may only require 80%.

In the following paragraphs, you will get an idea of some of the requirements for ecological food (both unprocessed and processed) and some non-food products. So, you will be better able to understand what an ecological product means according to European regulations.

Ecological Food

Ecological food is food that directly or indirectly (ingredients) comes from organic farming.

  • Cultivation without the use of chemical and synthetic fertilizers.
  • The use of mineral nitrogen fertilizers is prohibited.
  • The use of GMO (genetically modified) plants or animals is prohibited.
  • The use of ionizing radiation is prohibited.
  • Animals must be fed 100% organic feed.
  • Cloning or embryo transfer is prohibited.
  • The use of growth stimulants and synthetic amino acids is prohibited.
  • Manipulating animal hormone levels is prohibited.
  • Antibiotics may only be used in cases where the animal's life is in danger.
  • The number of farm animals must be limited to minimize excessive grazing, erosion, or pollution caused by animal waste.
  • Animals must have access to open-air pastures at all times.
  • Tying up or isolating farm animals is prohibited except in cases where it is necessary to stabilize the animal for veterinary reasons (good living and safety conditions must be ensured).

Processed Ecological Food

The same conditions apply to processed foods, with additional requirements regulating the ingredients used.

  • The preparation of processed ecological foods should be separated in time and space from conventional foods.
  • At least 95% of all components must come from organic farming, with the remaining five subject to strict conditions.

Ecological Cosmetics

There are many conditions for ecological cosmetics. Among the most significant are:

  • The product should not contain secondary packaging (e.g., a bottle in a box). Exceptions exist only for packaging that groups multiple products together (e.g., a product and a refill).
  • Primary packaging must be designed for easy dosing. It must be ensured that at least 90% of the content can be easily removed.
  • Plastic packaging must be designed to facilitate effective recycling. The occurrence of potential contaminants that hinder separation or reprocessing during recycling must be prevented.
  • Palm oil and palm kernel oil and their derivatives used in the product must be obtained from plantations without unsustainable deforestation.
  • Triclosan, parabens, formaldehyde releasers, microplastics must not be included in the ingredients.
  • Products marketed as intended for children must not contain aggressive fragrances (must be fragrance-free).
  • All surfactants must be easily biodegradable under aerobic conditions and biodegradable under anaerobic conditions.

Ecological Clothing

Clothing can also be ecological if certain conditions are met.

  • Production must consume the minimum possible amount of water and energy.
  • Plant-based fabrics (such as cotton or linen) must come from at least 95% organic farming.
  • Polyester fibers must be made from at least 50% recycled polyester.
  • Nylon fibers must be made from at least 20% recycled nylon.
  • The amount of toxic residues in the fibers must be limited.

How to recognize an ecological product

To identify an ecological product, the certificate logo on the packaging can help. These certificates, in the form of a logo printed on the packaging, have various requirements. It always depends on the certifying entity and the product category.

There are hundreds of certificates. One of the largest databases of ecological certificates is available at ecolabelindex.com.

Is the ecological product sustainable?

A sustainable product must be ecological, but an ecological product does not have to be sustainable.

For example, a chocolate bar produced in organic farming (the product is ecological) but with children working on the plantation in forced labor conditions (the product is not socially sustainable).

We must be aware that everything we consume has some impact on the environment. Moreover, consuming a certified ecological product does not always have a lower environmental impact than a conventional product. Factors such as the method of transportation or the country of origin also play a role. For instance, an organic banana from South America may have a larger ecological footprint than an organically uncertified apple grown near your city.

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