Setting New Year’s Sustainability Visions!

6 January, 2020

With 2021 just around the corner, it’s time we set a clear vision for the future (I hope not only opticians will appreciate that pun). What I’m going to discuss in this piece is the idea that we should flip the switch this New Year and instead of resolving to fix bad habits from the past for marginal effect, we should set big goals for the future and look to make huge impacts.

What better way to do this than to integrate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into our New Year’s Re… Visions!

 Firstly, what are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

If you know me and what I’m about, you’ll know that I have put a huge amount of my time and trust into growing the knowledge and belief around the UN’s SDGs and the potential that they hold for this planet, but to many of the people in my network, it’s just a bizarre acronym.

The UN has explored 17 areas to transform the world in the hope that by 2030, things will be looking much rosier. Now, look at the list below, and pick out THREE that seem most interesting to you. Be sure to choose three, as it could affect how you go about improving planet Earth, no matter the size of your contribution.

GOAL 1: No Poverty

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

GOAL 4: Quality Education

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

GOAL 13: Climate Action

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

GOAL 15: Life on Land

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

‘Right, I’ve picked three, what next?’

Next comes a phase that might exact a few groans from readers, but what I’m asking you to do is to go away and start reading up on the three goals that you’ve chosen.

For example, if you’re chosen goal 4, I want you to go to Google, search ‘UN SDG 4’ and open the top 5 results as new tabs. Arm yourself with some stats, learn which organisations are carrying out projects, see what is being set up for the future, and improve your overall knowledge on the subject.

Repeat this for all three SDGs that you’ve chosen.

Narrow it down

No singular person can solve all 17 goals. Even trying to make contributions to all of them would cause you no end of stress (where would you even find the time?), so what I’m proposing for 2020, is to choose one, and make it your personal agenda. From the three UN SDGs that you’ve started researching, which one has plucked your heartstrings, made you angry, or given you a potential idea for change?

 Let’s say that after doing your reading, you’re still keen on UN SDG 4, which relates to Quality Education. Now, you want to find out what organisations have been set up and what they’re doing. Fortunately, the UN Sustainable Development Partnership Platform has been set up to show you exactly that. Here’s Goal 4.

I’m going to pick one random organisation from the first page of results to continue exploring this idea: Urban Walls Brazil 4 Education. I’d suggest you look at as many as you can until you find one that resonates with you. For SDG4 alone there are more than 1,000 registered projects…

What next?

So, I’ve selected the Urban Walls Brazil 4 Education project. What’s it about?

Description/achievement of initiative

By connecting schools from the USA and Brazil, we will be opening a dialogue about SUSTAINABILITY, EDUCATION, DIVERSITY, and LITERACY. ART will be utilized to provide project visibility. A mural designed by the American students will be painted at the Brazilian schools. Notwithstanding the mural, the most IMPORTANT part of this project will be the distribution of books to EVERY student at the Brazilian school to foster the habit of reading. Brazilian children’s literacy level has a 260-year investment gap compared to the ones in developed countries (data from the 2018 World Bank Annual Report).

Great, this hits the nail on the head, aligning with things I care about, such as access to education, reading, sustainability, diversity, and investing in partnerships. So, in theory, what could I do to help in 2020 and going forward?

When I look at their website, I see that I might have a geographical challenge in supporting this project as it seems quite localised, however, I can purchase something from their store and use my money to help this project. In this case, they’re selling artwork and iron-on patches for reasonable prices.

At this point, I can choose to contact the project and ask how I can get involved from the UK, or I can go back to the UN Sustainable Development Partnership Platform and keep looking.

What is Sustainability Goal Setting?

For me, Sustainability Goal Setting is about having a quantifiable target to meet in order to make a contribution to sustainability. Typically these goals are going to be either financial or time-based, but they could involve other figures, for example:

  • Donate £500 in 2020 to a number of different projects
  • Give up 2 hours per week
  • Recruit 5 of your friends to help you
  • Host 2 events in 2020 to raise money or awareness
  • Do a fundraiser


Together, we can all contribute towards a positive global vision and help to transform the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. Whichever of the 17 SDGs most interests you, you absolutely can play a role and do something progressive. It can start today, or you can start in 2020, it’s up to you.

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