Columns / Discourse / November 6, 2019

The Sustainability Scoop: SDGs: tools for a green future for all

In the previous article, I explained what sustainability means, what it looks like and why it matters to us. Naturally, we all want a happy and worry-free future, and that is what striving for sustainability is all about!

Discussions about sustainability are still mainly focused around environmental issues and initiatives. Being a feminist, donating items instead of just throwing them out, fighting for a fair wage or volunteering in your neighborhood are all ways we can be sustainable. Yet often times, they are not considered as related.

There is a useful guideline that I use to help myself remember the diverse aspects to sustainability: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are 17 goals the United Nations have set according to what they thought the world should do in order to achieve a “better and sustainable future for all.” As stated by the United Nations: “they address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each goal and target by 2030.”

The 17 goals are:


  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships to achieve the Goals


We borrowed some ideas from this when we drafted the definition of sustainability at Knox.

I think there are a lot of things we can take away from the SDGs. First, they can help us expand our interpretation of sustainability. Who would’ve thought that “partnership” contributes to sustainability? Because the United Nations recognize all 17 goals as equally important, being involved in any can mean you’re working towards a sustainable, brighter future. This creates more ideas and opportunities to engage in sustainable initiatives.

The SDGs also help illustrate that all of our problems are interlinked. For example, reducing gender inequalities may improve accessibility of education for more children, thus reducing poverty and achieving economic development. Solving one problem will help solve another. On the other hand, focusing too much on a single problem will not get us to a truly sustainable future. Nothing will be solved unless we approach them holistically and simultaneously.

Another important takeaway is that our time is finite. It is important to appreciate every small step we make, but we need to realize that we also have to pace up. By setting a determinate end date, 2030, the SDGs help us visualize that the clocking is ticking.

SDGs raises, “Leave no one behind,” as one of its core missions. Tackling all of the world’s problems simultaneously – and under a time constraint no less – may seem discouraging. That is why this process needs everyone’s participation. We cannot leave this up to the few in power; every effort counts. Every person needs to be involved in order to solve the world’s problems before it’s too late so that our future is a happy, worry-free one.

The SDGs signify that there is a way for everyone to contribute to the attainment of a sustainable future. In fact, y’all might already be taking part, in one way or the other, without realizing! Realizing this is the first step towards our own and everyone else’s sustainable future.

Neori Yasumaru

Tags:  campus sustainability climate change environmental activism social justice sustainability

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