Sustainable Development Goals: How can the common man contribute?

The global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 and are designed as a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. There are a total of 17 SDGs covering all aspects of sustainable development, including social and environmental impacts. These are as follows:

Figure: SDGs (UN Report 2015)

As stated earlier, these goals are divided into social and environmental sustainability, and the 17th SDG is developed to guide future advancements for businesses, i.e., partnerships and collaborations to meet SDGs. These goals are developed for easy understanding and comprehension. Each of these goals further contains multiple targets and indicators that can be applied to measure the impact created by any business on its people or on the planet. The main purpose of these goals is to give guidelines to businesses around the world on how to incorporate sustainability practices into their DNA. (UN Report 2015)

The goal of this article is to spread awareness among people about the SDGs and encourage them to contribute towards sustainable living. These goals are designed to target businesses and guide them towards sustainable practices, but they are also useful to keep in check on an individual level. There are initiatives by the UN to encourage people in the direction of sustainability that can be easily followed.

Be the Change Initiative

The Be the Change Initiative has the opportunity for every one of us to contribute to the “walk the talk” with respect to the SDGs. The initiative provides us with information and motivates us to live more sustainably at work and at home by transforming the way we consume resources, for example, by using public transport, bicycles, or buying local foods. Everyone is welcome to participate. Every little step helps. You can inform your family, your friends, and your community about simple actions they can take in their daily lives. It’s easy to take action, and we are going to make it easier for you to make a bigger impact! The UN has prepared a toolkit for your work, schools, and universities to use to organize your own initiatives. For instance, it can be an internal recycling initiative, biking to work, or something that affects your community, like teaching children the importance of taking climate action. Check out the toolkit.

Following are the walk-the-talk programs one can follow:

1. Act Now: The UN Campaign for Individual Action

To protect the planet and maintain a livable environment, it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half before 2030 and to net zero by 2050. To achieve this, concrete, fast, and wide-ranging action needs to be taken by governments and businesses. But this transition to a low-carbon world also requires the participation of citizens throughout the world. Act Now is the United Nations campaign for individual action on climate change and sustainability. Every one of us can help limit global warming and take care of our planet. By making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, we can be part of the solution and make a difference. Here are ten impactful actions that one can take to start their journey toward sustainability. Use the app to log your actions and contribute to the global count.

Our lifestyles have a profound impact on our planet. Our choices matter. Around two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to private households. The electricity we use, the food we eat, the way we travel, and the things we buy all contribute to a person’s “carbon footprint,” the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with an individual’s activities.

Figure 2: Steps to follow on the individual level

2. The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World:

As discussed earlier, the Sustainable Development Goals are global, important, and world-changing objectives that require cooperation among governments, businesses, and world leaders. Hence, it seems impossible for an average person to make an impact. So should we sit back and forget about it? No. There is a guide to help you start the change. If every human on earth—even the most indifferent, laziest person among us—can be a part of this solution, this is good news! There are some super easy things we can adopt into our routines. Have a look at just a few of the many things you can do to make an impact! There are different levels of participation according to the individual’s contribution. Level 1 is “sofa superstar”, Level 2 is “household hero”, Level 3 is “neighborhood nice guy,” and Level 4 is “exceptional employee”. Check out the entire list of steps you can follow in the Lazy Person’s Guide.

3. #SaveOurOcean:

The oceans of the planet are home to 80 percent of life on Earth. Our oceans are responsible for the generation of the air we breathe, put food on our tables, sustain our economy, absorb excess carbon emissions, and are our greatest ally in the fight against climate change. It is literally our lifeline. Yet, unsustainable human activities, from overfishing to marine pollution, and global warming combined with rising sea levels, acidification, and coastal erosion have seriously degraded our ocean. Everyone can be part of the solution. And we can turn the tide if we act now. To test the level of your knowledge about SDG 14, take Kahoot: Test Your Ocean Knowledge! or participate in the beach cleanup. Last year, the #EUBeachCleanup 2022 edition—a collaboration between the EU and the UN—was initiated at the UN Ocean Conference. If you live beside the sea or the ocean, you can organize your own beach clean-up with your friends, colleagues, family, and community.

4. 170 Actions to Transform the World

Another way to contribute to sustainability is through the 170 actions to transform the world. This initiative targets climate change, and the goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2° C above pre-industrial levels. This mission is urgent for the survival of human lives, and this is why we all need to take part; everyone is called upon to contribute, as we all depend on our natural environment for sustenance. This website is part of the “170 Series” launched by the Perception Change Project of the UN. It gives you 10 suggestions for each of the 17 SDG goals about what you can do daily to protect the environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change. Read the complete list of 170 actions to transform the world.

These are some of the ways to contribute to sustainable development and make a change in lifestyle. It’s not only the government’s and businesses’ responsibility to transform the current practices. We, as the citizens of this planet, also have a responsibility to protect the one place we call home, the Earth.


  1. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. The UN Campaign for Individual Action
  3. 170 Actions to combat climate change
  4. United Nations Act Now
  5. Save the ocean

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