The path to making sustainable lifestyles the default

Almost three years ago, Futerra partnered with the UN One Planet Network on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme, to create the Good Life Goals; a set of personal actions individuals around the world can take that can have a tangible impact of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals. And if you’re asking yourself whether or not to keep reading this article filled with names of organisations and initiatives that are incredibly long, I promise I’ll get to the tips you can actually use soon.

The Good Life Goals were sparked from a conversation about what a sustainable lifestyle actually means on a global level. They look holistically at actions you can take in your daily life that support the globally agreed goals that all UN nations are working towards. They give you ways to contribute to a sustainable future and live in a way that support the natural world and all that’s living in it.

Off the bat, that all sounds great, right? But it’s prompted me to reflect on why we all need to be educated on living a sustainable lifestyle. My first thought is that our Western culture seems to be quite individualistic. We often approach our day-to-day tasks within the confines of our own individual worlds, rather than seeing ourselves as part of a larger ecosystem. So, starting to live in a way where you actively need to consider the impact your everyday tasks have on others can feel quite overwhelming. It’s a whole new way of approaching each day. And this might sound like a pretty big task to take on and a lot of responsibility. Schuyler Brown recently wrote about our cultural distaste for responsibility and how it gets tied up with blame and authority. But healthy responsibility allows us to be active agents in the systems in which we exist, to move through life incredibly consciously of our influence and impact.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are personal benefits to living in alignment with the world around you. Our Co-Founder Solitaire Townsend actually wrote an entire book about it called The Happy Hero. The book outlines how you’ll experience more fulfilment, happiness, health, and even a better sex life if you’re taking action to make the world better. So, if it feels like too much responsibility to be living sustainably in order to be mindful of your impact on others, do it for yourself.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a desire to live in a sustainable way for others, but we live in a culture and system that makes this idea foreign. We’re used to living in ways that benefit us as individuals. It’s only recently that there’s been mass awareness of how unsustainable that approach to living is. And with the world population set to reach 10 billion people, by 2050, it’s become clear that this approach or mindset will be personally and collectively detrimental. It’s a wakeup call for us to reconsider the lifestyles that have fostered as a result and a call to action for a lifestyle re-design.

From Schuyler Brown’s piece, she shares “We are all being called to take responsibility for what is unhealed in our past and for the future that is waiting for us to show up. This is personal and collective. And how it’s done makes all the difference. We can either perpetuate the situation by approaching our responsibilities unconsciously and full of resentment. Or we can do the hard work of healing in order to actually repair and restore the fragmented world.”

Hopefully, one day, living a sustainable lifestyle won’t need specific lists of actions or campaigns. Hopefully, one day, it will just become our default lifestyle because living in an unsustainable way becomes incomprehensible and foreign. In the same way that it would be jarring to see someone smoking inside an office building, perhaps one day it would also be jarring to walk into a grocery store and see vegetables wrapped in plastic or to think back to a time where our energy didn’t come from the sun. But moving towards that sustainable future can feel like a destination with no roadmap on how to get there. Campaigns and resources like the Good Life Goals can provide that first step.

UN Environment also have a campaign, The Anatomy of Action that looks more specifically at SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production. The Good Life Goals are relevant to a global audience across countries and cultures, but SDG 12 is more relevant to over-consumers, which is many of us in the Western world.

The Anatomy of Action translates the science behind Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) into everyday actions for people and planet. They provide a handful of lifestyle swaps that will help us to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees and meet the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. The Anatomy of Action breaks down the actions into five categories: food, stuff, move, money, and fun. Under the 5 action areas, the toolkit provides 15 ways to live more sustainably. The main goal is to inspire us to live simpler and lighter lives; and while this can have a positive effect on the environment, it can also be great source of happiness.

UNEP is running an Anatomy of Action social media challenge from 19th March to 2nd April and aims to build momentum ahead of a series of international summits happening (virtually) in April, May and beyond. Coordinated by UN Environment Programme’s Sustainable Lifestyles and Education team, the results of the challenge will be discussed during dedicated sessions on sustainable lifestyles and behaviour change at the IUCN Global Youth Summit, SDSN’s SDG Student Program Annual Summit, UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development as well as the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2021.

If you’re looking for inspiration or a prompt to begin your individual journey to living a sustainable lifestyle, this challenge could be a great start. Learn more about the challenge and Anatomy of Action here.


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