I’m sure at one point or another you have heard about the Sustainable Development Goals. Oftentimes they are mentioned in connection with the United Nations or with growth and issues within developing countries. Though to the shock of many these goals not only apply to developing countries but all members of the UN. These goals were put in place in 2015 and 2016 to replace the Millennium Development goals which were also aimed to help society in general. The Sustainable Development goals aim to create a blueprint for a sustainable future for the planet.
If you were to ask a random person on the street “Do you support the UN and The Sustainable Development Goals?” they would say yes. I mean why not, everyone knows the UN is a global group aimed to do good. If they are trying to make the world a more sustainable place why would I try and stop them? If the person then asked the question “How many goals are there and can you name them all?” I'd imagine only a small population of people could answer that question.
As I'm sure you are wondering now. What are these goals? Well, they are as follows.
Good Health & Well-Being
Clean Water & Sanitation
Affordable Energy & Clean Energy
Decent Work & Economic Growth
Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
Sustainable Cities & Communities
Responsible Consumption & Production
Life Below Water
Life on Land
Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
Partnerships for the Goals
Each of these goals attempts to help solve a problem that threatens the world's sustainability. Though all of them are interesting the one that I resounded with best was number 12, Responsible Consumption & Production. When first reading about this my mind first started small. I thought of things like I should really eat that lettuce in the fridge and does it really need to come in two different plastic bags. As I went to bed that night my mind was still thinking about consumption and production. Questions like: I wonder how much food I waste every year?, I wonder what's going on with farmers and how do they know how much to produce?, What other things do I not realize are wasteful? Upon waking up the next morning I had to google it. Man could I tell you I was shocked, the problem was so much larger than I realized. Somehow my mind only went to food, technology, transport, harvesting, storage, processing, and many other factors that are all part of just the production end. By just looking at the United Nations Website I found facts like how 13.8% of food is lost in our supply chains, which means that a decent chunk of food is disposed of even before it reaches our grocery stores. I also learned how tech waste had grown by 38% and only 20%, yes 20% was recycled.
After looking at that I was dejected. I thought to myself, what's the point? There's so much waste there's no chance I can solve that problem. As I ate my slightly wilted salad my mind suddenly changed. Yes, there's no way I can solve all the issues but I can give it a start. Why not look at the food sector. After a bit more googling I found this astounding statistic: Roughly a third of all food produced is wasted, that in real terms is 1.3 billion tons of food with a value of $1 trillion!
From then on my life changed piece by piece, as I looked to make small differences in my life that would eventually add up. If I had food I couldn't eat, I'd try and share it with my roommates, I tried to walk to grocery stores or take the bus instead of driving. In general, I tried to best live a life with minimal waste. This isn't to say I live a perfect life, without a doubt, I would sometimes have to throw out some leftovers or buy things with excess packaging. When talking to a friend he asked me what's the point since there are so many larger issues on hand that contribute to waste so much more than you do. In response, I said something along the lines of “yea your right but every action counts”. It doesn't matter if you still love that Japanese candy that needs to be shipped across the world with 3 layers of packaging, if you take small actions to reduce waste that you can handle it still counts. Those inconsequential actions eventually build up. If everyone were to eat all the food they buy or simply plan to freeze a portion to help reduce waste these actions will lead to a greater change.
Think about your daily life. Are there small changes that you can make which are worth the small inconvenience? Are there any changes so inconsequential that would help with sustainability? If possible I challenge you to make one small change. If we work together we can make massive changes.