Why is sustainability so crucial in today’s world, you ask? It ensures that our current needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is essential to preserve the health of our planet, protect natural resources, and promote social and economic well-being for all people.
Without sustainability, we risk depleting resources, damaging ecosystems, and causing irreparable harm to our planet and future generations. In simple words, sustainability is no longer a trendy option, but the only way forward if our planet is to survive. The good news is surveys indicate that the general population seems to agree.
Last year witnessed several shifts in buying and producing trends that could positively influence building a sustainable future if harnessed correctly. Here, we talk about the sustainable development goals most worth watching:
1. Consumers are no longer that keen to buy what they do not need
Traditional consumerism is starting to take a backseat. Polls repeatedly show that buyers are making do with the clothes they already have and making New Year’s resolutions to buy less in general.
Companies are responding to this, too. They are starting to pull back on promoting impulse buys and unnecessary products (like upgrades with only a few extra features) and investing in creating more durable products. Trends like renting clothes and buying from charity/thrift shops are gaining popularity too.
2. Sustainability goes hand-in-hand with social inclusion
To be truly effective, sustainability needs to include multiple voices, especially those of marginalised people. Indigenous communities, for instance, have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years, yet their voices are continuously sidelined in mainstream conversations about sustainability.
It is also vital to consider the impact of sustainable changes on communities with less access to resources – many, for instance, may not afford to switch to green energy. In other words, sustainability is a complex conversation and should be treated as such.
3. Existing sustainability trends will keep gaining pace
Several sustainability initiatives have already gained steam and will continue to do so. For instance, 175 countries signed an agreement in 2022 to end plastic pollution. The next few years will be crucial in accomplishing that.
More sustainable development goals will also be built around ocean pollution following the 2022 UN Ocean Conference. And finally, countries will continue to work on carbon removal from the atmosphere.
For example, over £54 million will be distributed to projects throughout the UK to advance technologies that eliminate carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
4. Energy management at the household level is vital
In addition to corporate commitments, which are undoubtedly critical, household emission reductions are essential for the environment as well as for healthier living.
Governments are investing in initiatives that shift home heating to electricity, install more solar panels, offer subsidies on green consumer tech, incentivise electric vehicle purchases and promote a shift to seasonal and local produce buying.
They are also investing in corporate partnerships to reduce food waste, promote more plant-based foods, plant trees and support peat conservation.
5. Carbon emission goals are more critical than ever
Despite multiple warnings from the UN and the COP27 Summit, countries have failed to reach their carbon emission reduction targets. A global temperature rise of 1.5°C is no longer avoidable.
Now, it is critical to set and meet even more aggressive emission goals, so temperatures do not rise any further. Public scrutiny will be even higher now – companies and governments can no longer avoid their responsibilities.
6. People are more conscious of what and how they eat
The pandemic and the multiple lockdowns brought home the realities of food scarcity like never before. Consumer values are now more geared towards using what they have, buying local ingredients, buying only what is needed, cooking their meals and avoiding food wastage as much as possible.
There is also an increasing shift towards consuming more plant-based food and cutting down on meat and dairy consumption, as livestock farming is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The increase has aided this in the number of plant-based meat and dairy options.
7. Work from home will continue to dominate
People and companies have embraced working from home as a convenient option and a sustainable one, as it cuts down on emissions from commuting and running a full-fledged office space. Going forward, companies that do choose to reopen their offices will likely run them on a hybrid basis or opt for coworking spaces so that employees can work from a space close to them (and thus save on commute). We will also likely see more corporate incentives for walking, bicycling or using public transit.
8. Communication is key
Language and communication are integral parts of sustainable change. For one, people need to understand the benefits of sustainability and how they can work on it in their daily lives. For another, small language shifts could dramatically change how people perceive sustainability.
Many still focus on the narrative that green technology is expensive and hard to install. Instead, if the focus were on the many advantages of green tech in terms of energy expenditure reduction and healthier ambient conditions, more companies might be willing to adopt it.
The key to such sustainable development goals is to find authentic, authoritative voices who can shape the new narratives to engage the public and gain their support.
Over to you
In short, if there is one thing that people should note in the coming year, it is that the time for good intentions is past. Now is the time for concerted, collective, goal-oriented action to save our planet. The good news is that more and more people are putting ‘reducing their environmental impact’ at the top of their priority list.
If they live up to their commitment to fulfilling sustainable development goals and hold companies and countries accountable, we may just build a better future for those after us. Do you want to know how Waste2ES is doing its bit for the environment, check out our story.