This past week, heads of states from across the world came together in New York City to fight for a better future—a future where society is free of poverty, living sustainably, and where climate change has been halted. This may sound impossible, but if we work together, we can achieve these aspirations by 2030. How do you ask? That’s where the Sustainable Development Goals come into action.
So what are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as Global Goals, or Global Goals for Sustainable Development? After three years of an extensive process, bringing together governments, civil society, and the private sector, the world now has 17 new goals with the ultimate goals of eradicating poverty, achieving sustainable development, and stopping climate change by 2030. These goals are aspirational and lofty, and cannot be achieved without a revitalized global partnership and mobilization of all resources.
But you might still ask, what exactly is Sustainable Development? As the UN says, “sustainable development is development that improves living conditions in the present without compromising the resources of future generations.” Sustainable development has three pillars, all which are stressed throughout the SDGs. They are economic, social, and environmental. We can no longer live in a world where we pillage the earth of all its resources for the sake of development, just like we can no longer allow people to suffer from lack of food or access to education and decent work. As Kumi Naidoo from Greenpeace International passionately exclaimed at the Social Good Summit, “There is no choice, it has to be now—nature does not negotiate. The window is small and closing rapidly and we demand for our governments not to play political poker with the future of our children.”
A major criticism of the SDGs is that there are too many of them and that it would be impossible to achieve all 17 goals. The question becomes then, which goal do we get rid of? These are the most urgent problems of our day, and every single day we do nothing, the problems get worse. One must also remember, not every country or organization has to focus on every goal. Every city, country, and region’s needs are different. And perhaps one of the most amazing things about these goals is the interconnectivity of all of them. You cannot address one, without simultaneously addressing others. You cannot address Goal 10 without addressing Goal 5. Just like Goal 1 to “end poverty in all forms everywhere,” is impossible without Goal 16, the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies.
So the question becomes now, what do we do? As an individual at the grassroots levels, what can be done to help? This question was addressed at the Social Good Summit, hosted by United Nations Foundation and Mashable. A star-studded list of speakers came together for two days to talk about how technology can be used to make an impact and help achieve these goals. But when the costs are so high, and so much is at stake, beginning to take action can feel daunting. It is hard to know where to start. Here is a list of 10 things you can do right now, some without even standing up. These easy, every day actions will help make the world a better place. There is 7 billion of us—imagine what can be achieved if we all did one thing every day. Like Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Program and former PM of New Zealand said, “Don’t walk away and come back in 15 years, be involved!”
- Turn the faucet off when you brush your teeth. If everyone did this just in the United States, we could save 1.5 billion gallons A DAY.
- Invest in a reusable water bottle. We have all heard about how many plastic water bottles are thrown away, and if lined up, they can circle the earth. However, did you know that the EPA’s standards for tap water are actually higher than the FDA’s standards for bottled water?
- Recycle newspaper and use them as gift wrap. Seriously. You can make it an educational or personal experience. I always try and find an article that makes me think of the person I am giving the gift to, something simple but that makes an impact. It can encourage someone to read up on a topic if a headline catches their eye, or for small children to practice reading.
- Donate any of your old computers to Goodwill. I have provided a link for more information, where you can find participating locations that accept any computer of any condition to recycle them.
- Join a Campaign. A great one is the One Campaign. You can take a pledge that you stand as one to help eradicate poverty: http://www.one.org/us/globalgoals/
- Think Locally! What problems does your local community have and get involved. If that means going to a food bank, reading to at-risk youth, or helping to pick up trash, there are so many organizations that want and need your help.
Be informed. There are great news emails that you can sign up for and get a rundown of the major news going on. You’ll find it harder and harder to not become motivated to act when you become more informed.
- Personal Favorite: The Skimm: a quick, humorous run down of world news. Keeps you informed and entertained, all before you get out of bed!
- Check your favorite news organization, New York Times, BBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal etc. Most if not all are getting on the emailed news bandwagon!
- Call your representatives! Something bothering you, or a cause you really wish to support? Call up your local representatives and talk to them. They are there to be your voice in government, and cannot do that unless you let your voice be heard! Here is a great resource to find who your representatives are and how to contact them: http://www.contactingthecongress.org
- V2V: Viewers to Volunteers. CBS EcoMedia has found a way to use advertising to raise funds for nonprofits. V2V allows users to read and share inspiring articles and videos, and by sharing via social media, they are raising money for different non-profit organizations. The website also allows users to search for local volunteer efforts if they wish to get more involved. Check it out now!: www.viewerstovolunteers.com
- Download The App “Stand”: Vivienne, an 8 year old girl, is behind the idea of this app. In this app, you can create your own or support another’s cause by sharing it or donating. It is a quick and easy way to take a stand. Check it out, it only takes two minutes.
I hope one of these ideas can help you find a way to get involved. And most importantly, TELL EVERYONE.