Five Easy Ways to Help Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Your Personal Life #SDGSandME

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

In this #SDGSandME series, we’re exploring how you can help us reach the Sustainable Development Goals through the personal, professional, political and philanthropic aspects of your life – we call them the 4P’s.

Today, we’re going to highlight the things you can do in your Personal life — The actions you take, the things you buy, the way you think, how you interact with your friends and family, and the vacations you take — all make an impact on the world for better or for worse. There are many things that you can do will contribute to a better world on a daily basis, and we want to show you how.

[For more customized support related to growing your impact, apply to our MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship program.]

“We as individuals should start by acknowledging the work that must first take place within ourselves to make our families, our friendships and communities more whole. The Global Goals help us examine our own lives to identify the ways our lifestyles actually contribute to inequality, injustice, climate change, and extreme poverty around the globe.”
Alison Carlman, Marketing Director at GlobalGiving

To help you identify opportunities, here are 5 things you can do in the personal aspects of your life to help us reach the SDGs, starting with getting informed on what the SDGs are in the first place.

One of the most important things you can do is raise awareness in your community.
One of the most important things you can do is raise awareness in your community.

#1 Get Educated

Even though the SDGs have been live for over two years, roughly 42% of people have heard of them and feel that they have a clear understanding of what they are. However, far fewer actually understand what they can do to help us reach the SDGs.

Now that you’ve seen the goals, it’s important to understand why each one matters to you and the world. Take a moment to review a brief summary of the SDGs and watch this short video by the United Nations. In addition, this post shares other must-read articles, and here is a comprehensive list of ways you can get involved.

#2 Change Your Mindset

Before you can create any change in the world, you must first change the way you look at the world. Part of changing your mindset means realizing that the SDGs matter to all of us. Rather than treating them as an abstract concept, it is important to remember that these goals affect everyone. The global goals are as real in the families and communities of the U.S. as they are in the Sub-Saharan regions of Africa.

#3 Educate Others

Once you have learned more about the SDGs, it is important to inform others. The more people we have actively thinking and working on the Global Goals, the more feasible it is to make real progress.

It’s easy to join in this effort, and you can easily raise awareness via word of mouth or through social media channels. Everyone has a social media platform they’re a superhero at, maybe you’re a pro snapper or have the best eye for Insta filters. Whatever your strength is, put that superpower to good use. Global Goals has a database of compelling social media images you can share for free. Make it a challenge to inform five friends, and have each of them tell five friends to set off a chain reaction in your own community. Put up posters in your workplace, gym, neighborhood or other well-frequented areas. Here are some free SDG graphic resources you can use.

Pro Tip: Include the hashtag #GlobalGoals & #SDGsandME for maximum exposure, you never know who will see it and be inspired to contribute.

Collective action is the surest path to success.

#4 Travel and See The World with Intention

In order to achieve the SDGs, we’re going to have to work together – people from all backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and religions will have to join hands. One of the best ways to build these relationships is to have empathy with our brothers and sisters from around the world.

According to Dr. Brene Brown, “empathy fuels connections,” when you’re not empathizing with other people you’re more than likely, sympathizing, and “sympathy drives disconnection.” Sympathy, which is a form of pity, forces you to work from a framework that is far removed from the subject, which causes dehumanization. In contrast, empathy elicits a more productive response by sharing an awareness with the subject, learning the depths of their struggles and then using that feeling to act in a positive and informed way. So when you travel, look for ways to connect with local people and their community and build empathy both ways. Try perspective taking and viewing the world through other culture’s eyes rather than entering with your own expectations and biased understanding of the world.

As Beltina Gjeloshi, an action team manager at Impact 2030, explains,

“Away from work one can still have many opportunities to impact the SDGs and make it personal by getting involved within your community. For example, you can engage with local hunger relief organizations, schools, libraries, and recreational centers amongst others to help the underserved and the environment. It all adds up to helping attain a more just and sustainable world, starting from your very own community. There is no limit to how big of a contribution you can make to achieving the SDGs!”

This video from Acumen’s founder, Jacqueline Novogratz helps highlight how becoming immersed is something that benefits you, those you help, and communities at large.

If you’re a skilled professional who likes to travel or is looking to take some time off to apply your skills and time to help, an excellent option is to go Experteering. Experteering is volunteering your skills abroad, and is an amazing opportunity to grow your skills while making the world a better place. It’s a win-win: you get valuable work experience and discounted traveling and you can make a real impact on the world. According to the United Nations, volunteers are critical to achieving the SDGs.

“The SDGs cannot be achieved without people’s engagement at all stages. Volunteers can facilitate and support participatory approaches in planning, implementing and monitoring the SDGs.”

– UNV key messages on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

#5 Live Conscientiously

If you don’t have the time or resources to go Experteering, then be a conscious citizen and a conscious consumer instead. You can easily find ways to “do less harm” in your day-to-day, while also “doing more good”. In his touching talk called The Thriving World, The Wilting World, and YouAnand Giridharadas highlights that we must look at our personal actions in a more holistic way.

Do less harm:

Read the lazy person’s guide to taking action:

  1. From your couch: simple things like saving paper by paying your bills online and following the Global Goals social media pages. For your convenience, here are the links to their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  2. From your house: recycle used paper and plastic products and compost your food scraps.
  3. From your neighborhood: Be social and carpool, walk to nearby locations or take public transportation for shorter trips.

Do more good:

  1. Pick a cause you’re passionate about and set aside money to donate towards it. Even if it’s just $50, social good organizations are often non-profits, so every dollar matters. Bonus: these tax-deductible donations can help you save money and invest where it matters most.
  2. Find out what issues your local community is struggling with and give your time to help inspire positive change. Use an app like SeeClickFix for local issues and read this guide about 12 ways to get involved.
  3. Instill values of empathy and generosity in your friends, families, and co-workers to better equip them to build a more cooperative world.
  4. Practice mindful living, by taking the time to reflect on yourself and your goals. Live your life with intention and purpose. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your mind, your actions will reflect your values and spreading positive energy and good deeds will become a lifestyle.
  5. For more creative ways to get involved, visit Global Goals’ helpful resource center or read this article.

“We should see the SDGs as another tool in our accountability toolbox and use this agenda for positive change. This means making the Goals relevant to young people and getting them to embrace it as their agenda too.”

-Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS, Secretary General and CEO

For more information, follow our #SDGSandMe series where we’ll provide more tips on how to do more good and less harm in the coming weeks.

Whichever of these initiatives you choose to take, it’s important that you make the decision to be a changemaker and follow through with the necessary action steps. Remember, real change can only be accomplished through a concentrated and intentional effort by people like you. Start small, but get started with the 5 tips outlined above:

  1. Get Educated
  2. Change your Mindset
  3. Educate Others
  4. Travel and See The World with Intention
  5. Live Conscientiously

For guidance in finding more purpose and making an impact, apply to our MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship.

It’s inspiring to see the way that individual changemakers are already leading the charge in their own communities. Here are some of the local leaders driving the change we all want to see through the Sustainable Development Goals:
-Alison Carlman