Sustainability at International Youth Day at the UN

generationOn staff recently had the opportunity to celebrate International Youth Day at the United Nations! International Youth Day recognizes and celebrates the efforts of youth to enhance global society.

The theme for this year's International Youth Day was "The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production". In 2015, the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030 and the youth summit focused on goal number 12 - Sustainable  Consumption and Production. The summit empowered young people, reiterating that we have the power to save the environment and eradicate poverty by choosing to use products that are eco-friendly and support equitable socioeconomic development.

According to the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, "Young people are not only our future- they are our present." Today, there are over 1.8 billion young men and women around the world - all  of whom have the power to make a positive change by transforming the way we produce, consume, behave and communicate.

Conscious choices are key to achieving this goal. Knowing about company practices and different products can help us make the decision of whether or not we want to support it. For example, take a single pair of jeans.

  • Extraction: It takes over 1,500 gallons of water to produce enough cotton to make a single pair of jeans.
  • Production: Many manufacturers use chemicals and dyes that are harmful to the environment to create the color and distressing of the denim. 
  • Consumption: Companies have to package and ship clothing for people to buy, sometimes using unrecyclable materials to get jeans to the hands of consumers.
  • Disposal: When we throw them away, they have to go somewhere. In the U.S. alone, an average of 70 pounds of textile waste per person ends up in landfills, which averages to about 21 billion pounds of textile waste ending up in landfills every year. The decomposing clothing releases methane gas and is harmful to the environment.[1]


At every step of the process, we must ask ourselves 'How does/will this affect the environment? And how does/will this affect people?' There is a present effect and a future effect- we have to keep both in mind. We have the opportunity to choose to better our world through sustainable consumption and production.

While it may not be easy to switch up your lifestyle, it is possible.

Keeping this sustainable development goal in mind, how can we help achieve it through service? Speaker, Mr. Steve Lee, Executive Director of FES and founder of Passion Explorer, describes how we can help by following these 5 steps:

1. Learn about the issue. Do your research. Know what needs to change. Figure out how to make that change.

2. Challenge your personal lifestyle. Make simple lifestyle changes. Use a refillable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, recycled paper, purchase produce without packaging, bring your own lunch in reusable containers, etc. There are tons of ways you can help with sustainable consumption and production by changing what you buy and use.

3. Challenge others to join you. Put on a sustainable consumption and production campaign at your school, make informational posters and put them around your school, neighborhood, church, and local markets. Encourage your friends and peers to 'reduce, reuse, and recycle' and do it together. It's a lot easier to make changes when other people are doing it with you. 

4. Engage the systems. Drive more businesses to be socially conscious. Ask to have recycling bins placed in stores, restaurants, your classrooms, parks, etc. Support businesses that use sustainable resources. If you see a problem, be vocal. Let them know that sustainable consumption and production matters.

5. Do all of this with confidence. You may be young, but you have the ability to make a difference in the present for the future!

It is our responsibility to protect our environment and each other. Each of us has the power to create positive change in our world. In the words of Ms. Irina Bokova, "It is not enough to hope for a better tomorrow-- we must act now". So, what will you do?

Check out these project guides for kids and teens for more ideas on working toward sustainable consumption and production.