In face of the changing world, the shift towards a sustainable society is viewed as a critical means to preserve and protect our deteriorating environment.
While significant efforts and many changes have been introduced both locally and internationally in public policies to ensure the transition to “green” economy, they remain insufficient to achieve this goal.
Existing studies suggest that solution to the problem cannot be resolved by looking at a macroscopic scale, but rather by looking at small details, such as lifestyle.
Lifestyle is defined in sociology as the typical way of life or habits of an individual, group or culture. These include people’s preferences as to how they live, be transported, what kind of products and services to buy, and even choose their provisions. According to the study Different Lifestyles and Their Impact on the Environment by Aalborg University in Denmark, a difference in lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on the environment.
For instance, a typical family having an “American lifestyle,” which is heavily dependent on transport by car, lives in its own large house and eats a lot of meat, is identified by Aalborg University to cause eight times pollution compared to a family having “green” lifestyle.
The “green” family which opts to take a walk for short journeys, make use of public transport occasionally or use bike to work, significantly helps reduce pollution from cars. Meanwhile, reducing their intake of red meat also delivers environmental benefits, as common sources of red meat like cows and bulls produce an enormous quantity of harmful gases such as methane.
“[I]t is necessary to inﬂuence lifestyles as a logical next step in the transition to a sustainable society,” noted Aalborg University in the study.
People’s lifestyles could also vary and change depending on what region they dwell in. The resources available in their regions have a direct impact of their way of living. People have been divided into two distinct groups marked by the difference between an urban and a rural life.
In urban area is where all the modern amenities can be found. These include the Internet, computer, telephone, television, satellite communication equipment, and all products of technology that you could think of. Majority of the households in the urban uses technological advancements to make cooking, heating and other chores easier and faster.
Moreover, shopping centers, theaters, hotels, restaurants and many infrastructure are all over the cities, while large constructions and skyscrapers rise in most of the metropolitan cities.
With the advent of technology, people in urban areas have become used to an easy-going life and dependent on the convenience that modern-day resources could offer. Likewise, with the greater availability of all the modern facilities together with an increase in the number of educational facilities and career opportunities, people of the urban areas lead an economically more stable and a comfortable life.
However, the growing attractiveness of cities to people has led to overpopulation while intensive industrialization has resulted to environmental problems. At present, cities are actually blamed for majority of the world’s pollution.
To put things in perspective, cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for over 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to figures from the C40, a global network of cities across the world.
As opposed to urban areas, rural areas are characterized by small towns and villages. People lead a laid-back and passive lifestyle. They are in close proximity in the community, more like a place where everyone knows everyone else. Meanwhile, houses are built in a wide space with sufficient area for fields and gardens.
Rural areas are known with their small population and having farming abilities. Many people here are considered to be farmers. They are more dependent on natural resources and organic materials, and some of them have small stores and run family businesses, compared to the big businesses in urban areas.
With ample space for plantations, rural areas have managed to keep an environmental balance. There is less pollution and there is also less number of industrialization activities that contribute harmful gases.
While life of people in the rural is not as lavish as those living in urban areas, they cause less harm to the environment and even help preserve natural resources. They may be deprived of luxury and technological advancements, but they are rich in terms of connection with nature.
Lifestyle could be seen as a small factor in protecting the environment, but taking a closer look, it is actually a critical aspect in building a sustainable society for everyone. People’s individual way of life could have a minor influence but collectively they create enormous impact. Thus, a change in one’s lifestyle could have small effect or none at all, but joining them together, they have immense potential for positive environmental change.