Green Versus Sustainable

People hear a lot of talk about “green energy” and “sustainable energy”, and many times the populace assumes these are the same things. However, while the methods might sometimes be the same, the goals are often different. However, as a rule, things which are sustainable tend to be green, though not everything that’s green is sustainable.

What “Green” Means
The term “green” generally refers to practices that are environmentally friendly. To use less pop culture terms, when something is green it has a very small negative impact, or no negative impact, on the environment. For instance hybrid cars are green when compared to regular cars. Just because they are friendlier to the environment though, doesn’t mean they’re sustainable as a solution. The reason for that is, of course, because hybrid cars still use gasoline, which makes them a less-than-sustainable solution for transportation needs. Horses by comparison are more sustainable because while they’re slower, they don’t require a finite resource to keep running.

What “Sustainable” Means
Sustainable, as the name suggests, describes solutions that can keep going indefinitely without causing damage. For instance, a bicycle or horses are sustainable methods of transportation. No they aren’t as fast as automobiles, trains or planes, but they cause very little damage to the environment by comparison and they can be used over and over again without expenditure of limited resources. However, the failings of these solutions when compared to the less-sustainable ones often make them look laughable.

Where The Two Shall Meet
The goal, of course, is to bring any green technology as close to being sustainable as possible. For instance, when it comes to energy, solar panels are one instance of a sustainable and green harvester. As long as the materials to make said solar panels can be recycled and re-used, and they don’t run out, then they become a sustainable solution because they can continue to be made and replaced until energy needs are met. They’re also green because they absorb energy from sunlight, and in such a way that the environment is not negatively impacted. Certainly not in the way it would be from burning coal, strip mining and other, similar activities currently used to produce power needed by humanity.

No Silver Bullet
Part of the issue when it comes to sustainability is that there really is no silver bullet to move from current solutions for humanity’s needs to greener, more sustainable ones. For instance, despite all the research into biofuels, electric cars and other solutions to try and replace the internal combustion engine, the general consensus is that people won’t be able to just switch over to one kind of new vehicle and suddenly everything is going to be all right. In order for sustainability to really take effect, people are going to have to use a wide variety of solutions in order to do away with older, dirtier solutions.

Humanity’s needs are often so big that the demand needs to be spread out over a wider field to satisfy everyone. Whether it is power, transportation, manufacturing or any other field, the more solutions that can be engineered and put into effect, the more likely total sustainability is to take hold.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

Go Green sign and Sustainability sign via Shutterstock.

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