Sustainability Statistics: Everyday Habits That Help the Environment

Some studies show that if we don’t change anything in the way humanity functions and consumer trends continue, the Earth will be out of resources in approximately 27 years. Although some countries have increased recycling efforts, the amount of waste humans generate every day is terrifying.

You probably don’t pay attention to all the power and water you waste daily, but sustainability statistics will shock you. Every one of us can contribute to pollution reduction and saving our planet. The following sustainability facts and stats will help you gain a better understanding of how we’re destroying our planet and what we can do to stop it.

Top Sustainability Statistics: Editor’s Choice

  • One-third of food is wasted or lost.
  • Around 90% of people globally breathe polluted air.
  • It takes 660 gallons of water to make a burger.
  • It takes 4,000 years for a glass bottle to decompose.
  • By 2050, food production will have to increase by 60% for the world to have enough food.
  • Just 1% of the water on Earth is safe for drinking.
  • To produce Sunday newspapers every week, 500,000 trees are cut down.
  • With a recycling rate of 63%, Austria is first on the global list.
  • Approximately 12 million cars are recycled each year in the US.
  • Globally, around 1.4 billion people live without drinking water.

Statistics for Environmental Sustainability

According to the World Health Organization, 23% of premature deaths are connected to environmental factors that can be avoided. Sustainability statistics and facts below will tell you more about the impact of our everyday actions.

1. Around 90% of people globally breathe polluted air.

Around 7 million deaths worldwide occur annually due to air pollution, with 90% of cases recorded in low-income countries. On the other hand, between 1990 and 2016, greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union dropped by 22%, based on environmental sustainability statistics.

2. In the last 40 years, 33% of arable land has been lost.

Around one-third of the Earth’s soil has been destroyed over the last 40 years due to rising food demand and agricultural practices. One of the many shocking sustainability statistics is that we will have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have in the past 8,000 years.

3. Every year, the average American throws away around 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.

With 1,609 pounds of trash produced per individual every year, the United States is the biggest trash-producing country globally. That means that 5% of the world generates 40% of trash, based on US sustainability stats. What’s more, out of every $10 spent on buying things, $1 is spent on packaging.

4. In order to produce Sunday newspapers every week, 500,000 trees are cut down.

If all newspapers were recycled, 250 million trees could be saved annually. Environmental sustainability facts show that 75,000 trees could be saved if a single run of the Sunday New York Times was recycled.

5. Approximately 12 million cars are recycled each year in the US.

Nowadays, new vehicles contain at least 25% of recyclable materials, mostly steel, and iron. Using recycled steel to make new vehicles can cut the price of producing cars by 20% to 60% while cutting emissions as well. Car sustainability statistics show that around 25% of car parts and materials are not recyclable, while car batteries and oil filters are the most recycled car parts. 

Statistics on Water Sustainability

The global water supply is limited. If we continue living destructive lifestyles, water won’t be here forever. Only a fraction of the water on Earth is fresh, healthy, and accessible to us to consume. Read on the following shocking stats about the sustainability of water.

6. Just 1% of the water on Earth is safe for drinking.

Americans drink 3.9 trillion gallons of water every month. An average American family consumes around 127,400 gallons of water per year. Considering that only 1% of Earth’s water is drinking water, every drop wasted is a significant loss for humanity. For example, water sustainability statistics show that if you don’t close the water tap while brushing your teeth, 5 gallons of water are wasted.

7. Globally, around 1.4 billion people live without drinking water.

Even though 75% of the Earth is covered with water, over a billion people don’t have access to drinking water. According to statistics on sustainability, around 33% of the world’s population lives in water-stressed countries.

8. It takes 660 gallons of water to make a burger.

Americans use around 98 gallons of water per day in their households. However, large amounts of water are used for the production of food and drinks. Approximately 660 gallons of water are required to make a burger, and most of this water is used to make meat. Water sustainability facts show that 1 pound of beef needs 1,799 gallons of water, which includes irrigation and water for processing and drinking.

9. An American household wastes around 180 gallons of water a week.

An average family wastes 180 gallons of water a week or 9,400 gallons a year, corresponding to water required for 300 loads of laundry. Environment sustainability statistics reveal that running a dishwasher only when it’s full could save 320 gallons of water per year since one load of dishes a week would be eliminated. Globally, households waste around 900 billion gallons of water every year. 

10. In order to make one pair of jeans, 1,850 gallons of water are used.

According to fashion sustainability statistics, 1,850 gallons of water are used to produce a single pair of jeans. The bad news is that just 1% of the materials used for making clothes are recycled and reused for new clothes. Moreover, 60% of new clothes are thrown away within one year of purchase, while only 15% of consumer-used clothes are recycled.

11. Only 10% of the energy that an incandescent bulb uses is converted to light.

Energy-efficient light bulbs use around 70% less power compared to incandescent bulbs. That’s because incandescent light bulbs convert just 10% of the energy to light, while the rest of the energy is lost as heat. Consumer sustainability statistics show that energy-efficient bulbs reduce electricity bills and carbon dioxide emissions while maintaining the quality of light.

12. One-third of food is wasted or lost.

In an era where 811 million people are hungry, approximately 33% of all food produced worldwide is wasted or lost. The food that’s not consumed is also a waste of resources like water, seeds, electricity, soil, and other supplies used for its production. According to food sustainability facts, the total farm output in the US tripled between 1948 and 2017.

13. By 2050, food production will have to increase by 60% for the world to have enough food.

The global population is expected to increase by 2 billion in the next 30 years, which means we’ll need more food—but not only that. The dysfunctional food system is the reason we need to do something about the vast quantities of lost or wasted food, as wasted food has a detrimental effect on the world. Interesting facts on sustainability reveal that reducing wood waste by 25% would get food production 12% closer to the amount of food we’ll need to feed the world in 2050.

14. It takes 4,000 years for a glass bottle to decompose.

Both glass and aluminum are endlessly recyclable without any loss of purity or quality. Approximately 80% of all glass containers recovered for processing are remelted and used to produce new glass containers. According to sustainability in business statistics, glass container manufacturers are aiming for 50% of recycled material in the production of new glass bottles, removing 181 tons of waste from landfills in the process.

15. 83.4% of people surveyed by Southern Cross University are recycling.

Southern Cross University surveyed 913 participants about environmental sustainability. Its sustainable living statistics show that 93% of surveyed individuals are worried about the environment. With the highest percentage of 43%, Gen Xers are worried about ocean pollution, while Millennials are worried about the extinction of different species.

16. In the UK, 13% of the products that arrive at construction sites are thrown away without being used.

Sustainability is a complicated topic in construction that must be addressed. As seen from construction sustainability statistics, a whopping 32% of landfill waste comes from demolition or construction sites, while almost half of that waste has never been used.

17. Companies can make a big impact and cut emissions by 60%.

Some studies show that only 100 companies are responsible for around 70% of global emissions. However, if those companies reduce their harmful impact on the environment, they can contribute to 60% of emissions cut by 2030. According to some business sustainability statistics, 87% of American citizens will more likely buy a product from a company that advocates an issue the customer cares about.

18. With a recycling rate of 63%, Austria is first on the global list. 

Some of the latest sustainability behavior statistics show that Austria has the highest recycling rate (63%). Germany is second on the list with a recycling rate of 62%, followed by Taiwan with 60%. America’s recycling rate is way lower (34%). With a recycling rate of just 7%, Malta is at the bottom.

19. In 2020, Canada had the highest waste generation rate in the whole world.

Canada generates 1,325,480,289 metric tonnes every year. These sustainability facts and figures make Canada the country with the highest waste generation rate. Bulgaria is second on the list, generating more waste than the United States. Other countries on the list are the United States, Finland, and Estonia.

20. Over the past century, the amount of waste that humans generate has increased by 10,000%. 

The amount of waste humans generate is shocking. Sustainability facts show that the US nation generates more trash than any other nation in the world. The average American produces 90,000 pounds of garbage in a lifetime.

Unfortunately, large amounts of plastic waste are found in the ocean. For instance, 46,000 pieces of plastic float in every square mile of the ocean, having a detrimental effect on marine life.


Rapid population growth has resulted in increased agricultural production, leading to deforestation and higher emissions of greenhouse gasses.

These sustainability statistics are terrifying. Even though people are trying to improve their behavior, and more countries are increasing their recycling rates, it’s still not enough. The importance of being environmentally aware is huge. We need more laws related to ecology and more help from the big industries. We hope that future facts about sustainability will be way better than these.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sustainability, and why should we care about it?

In the broadest sense, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the needs of future generations. Sustainability is crucial because natural resources are limited, and the global population is constantly growing. If we want our planet to continue existing as we know it, we need to change our ways.

What is the current greatest threat to agricultural sustainability?

Water insecurity is the biggest threat to agricultural sustainability. Without it, it’s impossible to maintain food production, which depends on consistent and reliable water sources. Considering that agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater withdrawals, and only 1% of water is safe for human consumption, we need to rethink all the processes related to food production.
Erosion is another threat to agricultural sustainability. Due to climate change, increased food production, and deforestation, soil erosion has accelerated. That type of soil has a reduced ability to store nutrients and water.

What are the three pillars of sustainability?

Economic viability, environmental safety, and social equity are the three pillars of sustainability. However, we have different viewpoints on sustainability. For example, the ecologist doesn’t separate humans from the planet and resources. The idea is that nature and humans are equally valuable and should be protected. On the other hand, the environmentalist separates nature from humans. The planet should be preserved to serve humans. Lastly, the economist understands the consequences of consumerism and using limited resources as income but has faith in technology to sort everything out in times of crisis.

What is the difference between going green and sustainability?

Going green means using environmentally friendly services and products. On the other hand, sustainability is about using products or services without damaging the planet and resources needed for future generations. The primary difference between green and sustainable is that green covers just one element, while sustainability covers the entire system, including economic, social, and environmental impacts.

How does ethical responsibility play a role in environmental sustainability?

Simply put, ethical responsibility and environmental sustainability are inseparable. As humans, we have a moral obligation to live our lives without endangering other living beings and using up limited natural resources necessary for the survival of future generations. These sustainability statistics show how small changes in our routines can play a significant role in protecting the world.