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Using the SDGs to Understand Global Issues- SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Practicing Responsible Consumption and Production

Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production is one that can have a large collective impact if we all do our part to make small differences in our lifestyles. The purpose of this goal is to achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources and reduce waste to reduce our negative impact as humans on the environment.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure that current material needs do not lead to the overextraction of resources or to the degradation of environmental resources, and should include policies that improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and mainstream sustainability practices across all sectors of the economy.” -Report of the Secretary-General, Special edition: progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

In order to make meaningful progress towards this goal, it is essential that all countries participate in reducing their overall waste with developed countries leading the charge. If nations come together for tomorrow, then we can minimize waste’s adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Sustainable Consumption within the Classroom

One important step to achieving a more sustainable society is to incorporate responsible consumption and production into classrooms starting at a young age. If students see how their role as consumers affects the environment, then they are more likely to consume in a more ethical and responsible way.

Encourage students to bring reusable water bottles to school, or start a composting program within your own classroom. The compost could be used to fertilize a school garden. When students are able to visualize how their actions are benefiting the environment and community, they can find a passion for sustainable living outside of the classroom and carry these ideals into their futures as well.

Another way to help students conceptualize their positive impact is to show how SDG 12 connects to and supports other SDGs such as those on climate action, sustainable cities and communities, and good health and well-being. Collective small actions by many people can have a large effect on the community and, more broadly, on the world.

Using Global Citizenship to Enact Change

Global citizenship is an awareness of the world as a whole—its values, communities, and identities—and a person’s place within it. It is our duty as educators to introduce students to the principle of “think globally, act locally” which urges people of all ages and backgrounds to consider the greater impact of their actions.

By showing students their influence on the world around them, it builds relevance to their lives and gives them agency to become change-makers in their communities. Participate Learning’s global citizenship framework teaches students to empathize with others and helps them to understand that the world is for all of us, so we should act responsibly to protect it for future generations.

Download this infographicto teach your students thirty ways to practice responsible consumption at home, school, and in the community. For more information on how to incorporate all of the SDGs into your classroom, read this blog post on four reasons to teach the sustainable development goals.

Originally published: November 30, 2017. Last updated: July 7, 2020.