Sustainability to have a say: You should know these 12 terms

Sustainability to have a say: You should know these 12 terms

Climate change and sustainability are among the most important issues of our time. If you want to have a say, but have not yet found access due to the complexity of the whole thing: We explain what is behind the most important terms relating to climate change – from "energy efficiency class" to "sustainable development goals" to "greenhouse gases".

1. Climate change

The term "climate change" usually refers to man-made global warming. Since the beginning of industrialization, the earth has been getting hotter and hotter. This is due to the fact that people today emit many greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane – especially when generating electricity and heat, during transport, in manufacturing and in construction.

The warm solar radiation easily penetrates the atmosphere and the warmth can more and more difficult to leave the earth again due to the greenhouse gases – so the earth warms up increasingly. This more often leads to extreme weather such as storms and heat waves. And there are fears that the climate could reach "tipping points" if there are too many greenhouse gases. If some tipping points were exceeded, changes would likely occur that cannot be reversed. Already with a global warming of 1 to 3 degrees almost all coral reefs could become extinct.

Virtually all nations on earth want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect the climate. Germany wants to become climate neutral by 2045 – this is even laid down in a law. This means that from 2045 Germany will no longer want to emit greenhouse gases. To this end, renewable energies such as solar cells and wind power are being expanded, e-cars are being subsidized, the power grid is being expanded and investments are being made in new storage technologies.

Together on the BetterWay for more sustainability

Sustainability and environmental protection concern us all. SATURN is also committed to a conscious and fair way of life. Here you will find tips and tricks on saving energy, repairing and recycling technology as well as information on sustainable products with the BetterWay label:

2. Sustainability

Concept image if green lightbulb, symbol of scr, innovation and eco friendly business

Innovations can contribute to sustainability. Image: © tomertu – 2021

Sustainability is a principle according to which no more may be used than can grow back, recover or be made available again in the future. The idea is that we should not be ruthless in using up raw materials and energy supplies. We'd better deal with them in such a way that they are also available for future generations . For example, we shouldn't cut down more wood than trees can grow back. Otherwise we will run out of wood in the future.

3. Ecological footprint

Your ecological footprint or CO2 footprint is the area that is needed on earth to manufacture and dispose of everything that you need for your personal lifestyle. You can calculate it with the Bread for the World footprint test. It is given there in the number of earths that would be necessary if everyone lived like you .

With a footprint of 2.9, it would take almost three earths to make your lifestyle sustainable – and that is the average ecological footprint of Germans in 2021 according to via Statista . For comparison: in the USA it is 5.0, in India it is only 0.7. For a sustainable life, the ecological footprint should ideally be 1 or less.

There are many ways to improve your ecological footprint. For example, you could eat less meat and throw away less food. Drying laundry better on the line than in the dryer also has a positive effect. Basically anything that saves energy and resources.

4. Energy efficiency class


The EU energy label helps to find energy-efficient devices. Image: © viperagp – 2021

The energy efficiency class reveals how economically a device uses electricity . On the EU energy label, there are levels A for high energy efficiency to G for low energy efficiency. They each relate to devices in the same product category. So it is not apples and pears that are compared, but televisions with other televisions, washing machines with other washing machines. You can find out more about the current EU energy label from 2021 in our article New EU energy label 2021: That will change with energy efficiency .

5. Product life cycle

The product life cycle or "Product Life Cycle" describes the phases that a product goes through on the market . In connection with sustainability, the division into these phases is common:

  • Extraction of raw materials
  • Manufacturing
  • transport
  • use
  • End-of-Life (disposal / recycling)

Several factors can contribute to a more sustainable product life cycle, including more sustainable production and consumption. A better repairability of electronic products is, for example, an approach how use and end-of-life could be optimized. The EU is allegedly planning to tighten the Ecodesign Directive in order to improve the durability and repairability of smartphones and tablets, according to .

SATURN offers a repair service for electronic devices that can be used both online and in local stores.

6. Electronic waste


You can reduce e-waste by repairing it, giving it away, and selling it. Image: © Adobe Stock / geografika 2020

E-waste refers to electronic devices that are no longer used. According to a UN report, the world generates 50 million tons of electronic waste every year, of which 20 percent is recycled. According to E-Waste-Monitor 2020, the largest share of electronic waste will be made up of large appliances such as stoves and washing machines, followed by refrigerators and air conditioning systems.

Everyone can do something to reduce e-waste . According to a projection by the digital association Bitkom, Germans are hoarding 199.3 million old smartphones at home. It would be better if you – after backing up your data and resetting to the factory settings – gave away your old cell phone, sold it, put it in the electronic waste bin or gave it to an electronics retailer. You can find out more about this in our article:Cell phone recycling: What to do with the old smartphone?

7. Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 states and the European Union. You set yourself the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures. In addition, the states want to create the possibilities so that we can better adapt to climate change. Finally, carbon-intensive investments are to be reduced. The Paris Climate Agreement is not legally binding.

8. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 goals for sustainable development by the United Nations, which all participating nations are to strive for by 2030. These include ending poverty, securing food, education for all and peace. Sustainable energy for everyone, sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production methods as well as immediate measures to combat climate change are also among the goals. The marine and terrestrial ecosystems are also to be preserved. State budgets are used for financing and the states record statistically the extent to which they have come closer to the goals. The Sustainable Development Goals are not legally binding.

9. Rare earths

99.9% fine lanthanum isolated on white background

Lanthanum is used, for example, to manufacture camera lenses. Image: © Björn Wylezich – 2021

The rare earths are 17 elements of the periodic table. These are metals such as neodymium, which is used in electric motors, lanthanum, which is used in batteries, and scandium, which is used in X-ray technology. Smartphones, notebooks and LED lights cannot do without rare earths either.

The problem: the mining of rare earths produces poisoned sludge and residues of toxic waste. However, the "rare earths" are not really rare . Even the least abundant rare earth element, thulium, resides in the earth's crust in greater quantities than gold.

Rare earths are predominantly mined in China – a full 57.57 percent of global production takes place there. In the US it is 15.63 percent, in Burma 12.34 percent and in Australia 6.99 percent. Other countries make up much smaller proportions. This is the result of a survey by the US agency USGS (United States Geological Survey) via Statista from the beginning of 2021. The data refer to the year 2020.

10. Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases are gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and thus heat the earth – global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has the greatest influence, but the concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere are also increasing worldwide. The use of fossil fuels is the main cause of the increasing greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect means that the sun heats up the earth and the greenhouse gases increasingly retain heat on the earth.

11. Green electricity

Wind energy and wind power Generation of green electricity with a wind turbine in Schwäbisch Hall

Wind energy generation by a wind turbine in Schwäbisch Hall. Image: © hdg033 – 2021

There is no binding definition of "green electricity" in Germany. Ultimately, the electricity always comes from the same power grid and there are no different types of electricity in it. Serious providers, however, use the money from green electricity customers to promote the expansion of renewable energies . The "ok-power" seal and the "green electricity label" promise very strict criteria for promoting expansion. Green electricity is also known as "green electricity".

12. Climate neutrality

Climate neutrality means that no climate-damaging gases are generated or that they are generated but saved elsewhere. The bottom line is that something is climate-neutral because it does no harm to the climate . According to the Climate Protection Act, all of Germany should become climate neutral by 2045. Companies are also increasingly setting themselves climate neutrality as a goal, and it is also an issue for individual products. "Net zero emissions" and "net zero CO2" basically mean the same thing as climate neutrality.

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