Sustainability Is About More Than Just Saving the Environment

As a former market analyst, one of the first things I research about a company are the financials. You can argue that investors care about risk mitigation, quality of leadership, growth, and even environmental conservation efforts, but the bottom line trumps all. If a company can’t stay in the black, they won’t be around very long. Financial sustainability is not only critical for survival, it is critical to the overall health of a company.

In terms of individuals, financial sustainability is equally critical to well-being. There are countless blogs addressing mental wellness, proper diet, exercise, sleep habits and zero waste. A lot of the zero waste blogs address consumerism, but many times, the supporting argument is a strong distaste for big businesses that extort innocent consumers through aggressive marketing and empty promises of fulfillment. While there’s nothing wrong with this view, what if we looked at sustainability from a personally accountable consumer well-being standpoint? What if we looked at spending money the same way we looked at spending calories? What if we measured the stress of debt the way we measured pounds on a scale? What if we were as mindful about spending as we were about a meditation practice to improve mental wellness?

First, it’s important to understand our own view of money. Money, by itself, is not a bad thing. It’s the love of money that causes problems. This is no different than a skewed view of being skinny. People obsessed with being thin and not having a healthy relationship with food can develop anorexia or bulimia. But food, by itself, is not a bad thing.

In terms of wellness impact, a bad relationship with money that can cause problems such as excessive debt, relationship issues, and addictive behaviors. Spending beyond our means is not sustainable. Borrowing from friends and family is not sustainable. Becoming a workaholic to buy the next biggest and best thing is not sustainable.

According to a report released by the Federal Reserve late last year, Americans had $1.021 trillion in outstanding revolving credit in June 2017. This beats the previous record in April 2008, when consumers had a collective $1.02 trillion in outstanding  revolving credit. Total household debt — including housing, auto loans and student-loan debt — in the U.S. also surpassed the 2008 peak.  The Impact of Financial Insecurity to Well-Being

  1. “A study of 33,720 U.S. households published in the January 2016 edition of Psychology Science found that those with higher levels of unemployment were more likely to purchase over-the-counter pain killers.
  2. People reported feeling almost twice as much physical pain after recalling a financially unstable time in their life compared to those who thought about a secure period.
  3. Worrying about debt triggers stress, which reduces your resilience against mental health problems. Mental health problems decrease self-control, increase spending and basically mess up a person’s financial judgment.
  4. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety. Financial worries are a massive trigger for those disorders.
  5. A 2016 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta linked debt to higher death rates. Becoming seriously delinquent on a debt increased the mortality risk 5% in the first three months after the bill became delinquent. But a 100-point increase in a person’s credit score led to a 4.38% decline in the mortality risk.
  6. People who struggle with debt are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression, according to a study by the University of Nottingham in England.
    Hopelessness sets in, as does low self-esteem. It can lead to even more debt, since sufferers sometimes try to relieve their depression by treating themselves to a shopping spree or some other mental getaway.”

Financial sustainability should arguably be at the top of the list of wellness initiatives, even more important than proper diet and exercise, meditation or sleep. If we’re really going to be serious about sustainability, we can’t exclude discussions about money.

©, March 3, 2018


1 Timothy 6:10, New King James Version


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