8 Common Myths about Sustainability Debunked

December 4, 2023
minute read

At The Loop co.'s ESG & Impact Week, João Barreiros, co-founder of Do Zero, took the stage to demystify sustainability. From the truth about plastics to the real impact of your daily choices, explore eight eye-opening sustainability myths and discover practical steps for a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

João Barreiros giving a talk around the theme "Sustainability from 0 to 100"

Watch the full video of this enlightening talk on sustainability myths below.

Myth 1: Climate change is cyclical and isn’t caused by humans.

Earth has experienced climate variations cyclically over time but today's situation is anything but typical. Greenhouse gas emissions are breaking natural limits, exceeding the Earth's capacity to absorb them. While the planet can naturally absorb about 39% to 41% of our carbon emissions through carbon sinks like forests, our current consumption and emission levels far surpass this capacity. So, climate change isn't a natural cycle and we need to act now to prevent more damage.

Nasa graphic showing the increase of global CO2 emissions
NASA graphic showing the increase of global CO2 emissions

Myth 2: Plastic is the number 1 enemy of sustainability.

While single-use plastics earn have been criticized for littering oceans and land, plastic as a material isn't the primary culprit. In fact, it boasts low energy and greenhouse gas emissions during production, making it a remarkable product. Today there’s even fossil fuel free alternatives like plant-based plastics! The real environmental heavyweight - contributing 73% of global greenhouse gas emissions  - is our energy consumption urging a shift to renewable energy.

Myth 3: Electric cars are worse than combustion engines.

Despite initial production challenges, electric cars outshine traditional ones in emissions and maintenance over their lifespan, especially if they're powered by renewable energy.  In fact, even in places with a lot of non-renewable energy, they can still outshine regular cars! In Portugal, where green energy is prevalent, electric cars offer immediate and significant environmental benefits.

Compairson between electric and diesel cars CO2 emissions over their lifetime
Comparison between electric and diesel cars CO2 emissions over their lifetime

Myth 4: As an individual, nothing I do will make a difference.

While the top 10% of the world's wealthiest individuals are responsible for 49% of greenhouse gas emissions, whatever we can do can still save at least half of these carbon emissions. Small changes in lifestyle, such as reducing food waste, reducing car usage, choosing renewable energy packages and shifting towards a plant-based diet are some actions that can lead to substantial emissions reduction. Even seemingly small actions collectively make a significant impact.

Graph showing CO2 emissions saved with sustainable practices
The impact of our choices based on CO2 emission's savings

Myth 5: Recycling isn't worth it because “they mix everything”.

Contamination happens, but specially in cities, recycling is generally efficient. Apps like WasteApp can help you identify recycling locations and get information based on your geographic location, contributing to informed and effective recycling practices.

Myth 6: If there's a water cycle, we’ll never run out of water.

While the water on Earth is constant since the planet's formation, 97% is in the oceans and not suitable for consumption without turning it into freshwater through a process called desalination. The real issue, though, is that we have a limited supply of freshwater, essentialy needed for drinking and agriculture. Industries, such as textiles, consume substantial amounts of water, often leading to its contamination and and making it unfit for for reuse without significant environmental costs.

Myth 7: The best way to save water is to turn off the tap.

The water use in Portugal is mostly driven by agriculture, accounting for 74% of consumption. It's not just about turning off taps. Making informed choices, like opting for second-hand items and selecting foods with a lighter water footprint, can have a positive impact.

Myth 8: We have to go vegan in order to save the planet.

It's all about balance and being aware of where your food comes from. Certain meats, like chicken and pork, have low water and greenhouse gas footprints. Tools like the BBC calculator can help you figure out your carbon footprint based on your diet and lifestyle. Keep in mind, emissions can vary by region. So, rather than going full vegan, it's more about making informed choices when you choose your meals.

Graph shows the carbon footprint of different foods, ranging from meat to nuts and even chocolate
Carbon footprint of different foods

So, what can I do?

  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself up to date on environmental issues and sustainable practices.
  • Choose Reusables: Opt for sustainable and reusable products to reduce single-use waste and contribute to a circular economy.
  • Sustainable Mobility: Walk, cycle, use public transportation, or consider an electric/hybrid car to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Meal Planning: Plan meals efficiently to minimize food waste, even incorporating food scraps and products near/past their expiration date. Take a look at Save the Food for recipe inspiration and use apps like Too Good to Go.
  • Embrace "Ugly" Produce: Support imperfect fruits and vegetables to help reduce food waste. Explore food baskets subscriptions like Fruta Feia or Equal Food.
  • Recycling: Make a conscious effort to recycle. Tools like the Waste App can guide you through it.
  • Water Conservation: Conserve water not just at the faucet but through mindful consumption and sustainable food choices.
  • Plant-Based Focus: Consider a plant-based diet and be mindful of responsible sourcing if consuming fish or certain meats.
  • Conscious Purchasing: Choose products with minimal environmental impact by considering their source and production methods. If possible, choose second-hand.

Latest Posts

More Posts