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Why Renewable does not mean Sustainable


Video Highlights

00:23 - Definition of renewable
00:36 - Definition of sustainable
01:00 - Analogy with energies and why they are renewable
01:25 - Why renewable does not necessarily mean sustainable?
01:30 - Environmental Sustainability
02:05 - Social Sustainability
02:35 - Economic Sustainability
04:10 - Is there a resource which is 100% sustainable?
04:22 - What we can do, as consumers

Video Transcript

Hi guys, Laurent Bleu from FRiLuk. In today's video, I want to talk about the difference between sustainable and renewable. I've been asked many times, in my view, what are the differences between the two; there is obviously an overlap between what is renewable and sustainable, but let's look at the differences which are, in my view, the most important.

If we take RENEWABLE, it means that it can be renewed, regrows by itself, it is not a finite resource, there is an ongoing supply of that resource. Now, SUSTAINABLE it's a bit different, you see with SUSTAINABLE we need to look at 3 different aspects of the sustainability: the environmental sustainability, the social sustainability and the economic sustainability. That's where the main differences are between renewable and sustainable.

If I make an analogy to electricity or the energy: solar energy, wind energy or hydro type of energies, all those are obviously renewable: the sun is shining, there is no human being intervention in order to produce the wind, that's a natural renewable resource. So we understand why those energies are renewable. Now, why are they not necessarily sustainable? That's because of these 3 aspects of environment, social and economic.

If there is an impact on the environment, a negative impact, well de-facto that cannot be considered as sustainable. For instance, if I look at wind turbines, if the cost of energy needed to build that device is actually higher than the energy it is going to produce during its lifetime, that cannot be considered as sustainable. You see, that's basically very important to keep in mind.

Now in term of social sustainability: here again, we need to look at the entire picture. If producing a technology or resource means that people are not getting paid fairly or they are working in a dangerous environment, not under healthy conditions, well that's not sustainable over the time... so again it would go against the definition of a resource being sustainable.

The last part which is the economic sustainability, well here it is a bit complex, that's why sustainability it's kind of a diverse and complex word. Trying to keep it simple again, a simple definition would be that a resource is economically sustainable if it can be produced... if let's say a technology or a resource can be produced without subsidies.
If I compare that again to the energy or electricity world: fossil fuels, for instance, are heavily subsidised. I think there is over $100 billion invested in that technology and type of products, so again, economically that's not sustainable because who pays for it? I mean, we all pay for companies and government to invest in fossil fuels and if you compare that to green energies, or let's call them sustainable type of energies, it is a tiny fraction of that.

You see it is a bit complex but we need to understand that if we go to the fashion industry, or not, when we look at sustainability, it is very important to remember the impact on the environment, which needs to be zero (or at least as limited as possible), the social impact and the impact on the economy as well.
In my view, there is no 100% sustainable resource. A renewable resource, yes, but sustainable it is challenging.

So now, what do we do about it as a consumer? Well, I think there is no need to over complicate things. I am a big proponent of looking at what people do rather than what they don't do and if you can keep improving that's also the most important.
So I think that in our habits, every day, what we should be doing is, look at the panel of options we have at our disposal, look at all the renewable resources we have, and let's use them in a way that it is going to be as sustainable as possible. I think that it is basically the best option we have: take those renewable resources and use them in the best way we can, to be sustainable.

That was it really guys, a short video, but I think it clarifies a bit what is renewable and what is sustainable. Again it is not because it is renewable that it is sustainable :-) I wish you an amazing day and I see you in the next video.

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