Ethical Living Blog


When I was asked to contribute to this ethical living blog with a few thoughts on sustainability, I thought it would be an easy feat. These days we frequently hear the words ‘sustainability’, ‘ethics’ and ‘fair trade’ used freely, and at times, interchangeably.


The sustainability that we most talk about most often is the definition of sustainability adopted in the 1987 publication Our Common Future – also known as the Brundtland Report. According to the report:

“[Sustainability is] development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future, 1987).

It’s meaning is simple and straightforward: to be sustainable, we must make sure that what we do today will not disrupt the wellbeing of tomorrow.


But if you take a moment and think about how we understand sustainability, it’s strong ties to ethics and fair trade becomes increasingly precarious. The Brundtland report’s definition of sustainability recognises overconsumption as the key challenge to achieving a sustainable future because it reduces the resources available to future generations.  And if we look at the ways in which sustainability is practised today, the underpinning value of preserving resources for the future is indisputable. Lean manufacture, circular economies and even recycling are all fantastic instruments for reducing our consumption.


However, alongside reducing current consumption, there is an equally pressing issue that impacts the well-being of current and future generations. And that is the inability for a significant proportion of our world’s population to access the very same resources we work to reduce. According to a 2016 report released by Oxfam, the world’s richest 62 people have a combined wealth equal to the poorest 3.6 billion.   With the world’s wealth and purchasing power limited to so few, it raises the question: for whom do we practise sustainability and at what costs?

Photo by quicksandala on Morguefile


These questions about the ethics of sustainability are not altogether new. The concept of sustainability and what a sustainable world entails is regularly debated and has been extended to include a more holistic consideration of social and environmental factors. The best indication of this more holistic, inclusive understanding of sustainability is the declaration of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. To be achieved by 2030, these goals extend from clean water and sanitation to gender equality and eradicating power – encouraging a global call to action that embeds ethical and equitable outcomes in the framework of sustainability. What remains unclear is just how we can incorporate sustainable principles and ensure that the world we aspire is still equitable. And so, my blogs will encompass a series of wordy anecdotes that try to navigate these persistently murky waters: what would a truly ethical and sustainable world look like?


– by Steve Waldegrave

Kia ora! My name is Steve and I am writing to you from the top of a hill in Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand. It’s not any random hill (that would be weird); it’s where I live.

I’m half Polish, half Kiwi and bit further back, a bit Irish, a bit Scottish, and even a tiny bit Indian (on my grandmother’s side). It’s complicated. (more…)


St Monica’s College is a very special school. It is one of few schools that has dedicated Coordinators of Social Justice and Sustainability who both have generous time allowances to do their work. We are a school dedicated to making this world a better place and promoting care for creation. It is no wonder then, that we are a Fairtrade Accredited School. (more…)


– by Antony DiMase

One of the biggest myths in sustainable architecture is that somehow it costs more to build a green building.  Leaving aside the lifecycle cost and social impact of not building green – this myth ought to be challenged.  The common thought amongst developers is that green buildings cost about 15% more than regular buildings and that the consultant costs are much higher.  As such it is difficult to justify building less of what you need to be more “green”.   Sure we all want to do the right thing – but as George Osborne told the British Parliament in 2011 “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business”.  Closer to home – think of a school committee trying to justify not building a new classroom in order to be more sustainable – it simply is not going to happen. (more…)


While awareness of the social and environmental cost of fashion and food production and consumption is on the rise, it can often feel like there is a lack of guidance on what actions you can take and where you can find ethical and sustainable products. What stands out in many conversations I have on this topic is a sense of helplessness in the face of injustice, with many people feeling unsure of what to do, and whether their actions actually do make a meaningful impact. The United Nations named 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which present exciting opportunities for aspiring conscious consumers. Travel combined with making a positive impact on peoples lives and the environment seems like a pretty good formula to counter feelings of helplessness and despondency. (more…)

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