UN Sustainable Development Goals: a Wishlist for Saving the Planet


By Virginia Nowakowski On September 25, 2015, the United Nations rolled out a set of goals for the next 15 years to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all”: the Sustainable Development Goals.

This isn’t the first time that the UN has crafted a wide-reaching wish list for international efforts. Nearly 150 officials from 40 different countries met in September 2000 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to draft the Millennium Declaration. This included a set of eight Millennium Development Goals, ranging from plans to end extreme hunger and poverty to improving gender equality and combatting HIV/AIDS.

The Sustainable Development Goals retain some of the aims of the MDGs, but they also add nine new initiatives that focus on problems the MDGs didn’t cover. For the first time, the UN is dedicating itself to five goals that emphasize the importance of the environment, and it has a couple of suggestions for how environmentally-savvy individuals can help.

Goal #7: Affordable and Clean Energy

According to the United Nations, one in five people in the world do not have access to modern electricity. Many of these people use coal, wood and animal waste to fill their fuel needs. Basically, the United Nations wants to make universal access to modern electricity available while also increasing the amount of renewable energy alternatives.

What Can You Do?

-> Turn off your appliances (and your lights!) when you're not using them

-> Keep your thermostat low in winter, high in summer

-> Plug any air leaks to decrease energy use

-> Air dry your clothes and your hair

Goal #12: Responsible Consumption and Production

The world produces more than enough food to feed its population. Freshwater is a little harder to come by: less than one percent of the world’s water is suitable for human use. However, both resources are scarce for a large portion of the globe’s individuals. Members of the United Nations are aiming to halve the per capita food waste at retail and consumer levels, promote ecologically friendly management of chemicals and wastes to reduce pollution,, and make all individuals environmentally aware.

What Can You Do?

-> Refrigerate/freeze leftovers

-> Shorten showers to five to seven minutes

-> Shop with a plan and don’t buy food you won’t eat

Goal #13: Climate Action

Global climate change is real. The average temperature of our planet continues to increase, putting everyone at risk. Targets for this goal are a little broader: improving natural disaster programs, adding climate change measures into nations’ policies and raising money for the Green Climate Fund, which invests in public and private sector green efforts.

What Can You Do?

-> Use public transportation instead of a car

-> Try eating vegetarian— it produces less carbon emissions and uses less packaging than meat products

-> Refill a reusable water bottle instead of drinking out of a disposable one

Goal #14: Life Below Water

Turns out, most of the world is covered by oceans. Hundreds of thousands of species live under the water, many of which humans catch for food or for a living. How can we save our oceans? The plan is to reduce pollution, increase studies of marine life, protect coastlines and ban overfishing.

What Can You Do?

-> Recycle what you can, properly dispose of what you can’t

-> Buy (or order) sustainable seafood

Goal #15: Life on Land

Countless organisms depend on our world’s forests, including one billion human beings who earn their livelihood from them. At the same time, more than two billion people rely on agriculture for food and money. The members of the United Nations want to conserve forests, promote biodiversity, and protect farmland from turning into deserts.

What Can You Do?

-> Look for local produce

-> Be willing to get “funny fruit”— it may not be shaped just right but it will taste fine

-> Go paperless for bills, assignments and newsletters


These new goals are important because they highlight the critical situation the planet faces. However, as nice as they look on paper, actually implementing all of these solutions will be difficult. The UN will need participation from everyone, from the government and large corporations to small nonprofits and communities to individuals. Our collective efforts will help determine what goals the world will reach by 2030.

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