Sustainability in 2024: beyond buzzwords

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Sustainability. It’s a word bandied about with increasing frequency, adorning product labels, fuelling political platforms, and popping up in every Instagram story. But in 2024, amidst a climate crisis intensifying by the day, the question begs: what does sustainability actually mean?

Is it simply swapping plastic straws for metal ones? Planting a few trees in your backyard? Or is it something far more intricate, demanding a systemic overhaul of our relationship with the planet?

The United Nations defines sustainability as:

“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

It sounds complex and, the truth is, sustainability is multifaceted.

However, the UN 17 SDGs—Sustainable Development Goals—helpfully outline our global priorities for a more sustainable world: from poverty and hunger to climate change and clean water.

True sustainability requires us to acknowledge that the environmental, social, and economic pillars of our world are delicately intertwined. And we need to actively build a future where all three can thrive in harmony.

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♻️ Moving Beyond Individual Actions

While personal choices do matter—even small changes have impact—focusing solely on individual carbon footprints risks obscuring the broader picture. The corporations churning out fossil fuels and fast fashion hold huge sway over our environmental impact.

Sustainability in 2024 demands a shift in focus. It’s about advocating for systemic change, holding corporations accountable, and supporting policies that prioritise the Earth’s well-being. It’s about joining hands with communities fighting for environmental justice as they bear the brunt of climate disasters.

♻️ Rethinking Consumption and Production

Shoppers bustling on shopping center escalators—the pulse of consumer culture.
Our current model of rampant consumption is unsustainable at its core. Canva.

Our current model of rampant consumption and linear production, where resources are extracted, used, and discarded, is unsustainable at its core. Sustainability in 2024 necessitates a circular economy—where waste becomes a resource, products are built to last and repair, and production processes minimise environmental footprint.

It means supporting businesses using recycled materials, embracing upcycling and DIY culture, and prioritising experiences over fleeting possessions. It’s about investing in renewable energy sources, rejecting fast fashion and embracing ethical, locally-sourced products.

♻️ Beyond Environmental Focus

While environmental concerns often dominate the sustainability conversation, the social and economic dimensions are equally critical. Sustainability in 2024 means ensuring just wages and decent work conditions for all. It means tackling wealth inequality and ensuring access to clean water, food, and sanitation for every human being.

Homeless encampments illuminate urban inequalities—urgent need for equitable and sustainable solutions.
The social and economic dimensions of sustainability are as critical as environmental concerns. Canva.

It means celebrating diversity and inclusivity, fostering a world where everyone can participate in and benefit from sustainable practices. It’s about empowering marginalised communities and supporting and embracing indigenous knowledge systems that have sustained people in harmony with nature for millennia.

♻️ The Urgency of Now

Sustainability in 2024 is more than just a trend, it has to become part of our everyday lives. The effects of climate change are no longer distant warnings. With record temperatures, floods, droughts, fires, and food insecurity unfolding across the globe, ignoring these realities threatens not just the environment, but indeed human civilisation itself.

Australia's fire history: Indigenous fire management wisdom holds lessons for the future.
Adopting indigenous knowledge systems helps to better care for our environment. Canva.

The path towards a sustainable future demands collective action, systemic change, and a conscious shift in our values. It’s about rejecting a culture of disposability and embracing a future built on respect for the planet and all those living on it.

Sustainability in 2024 is a call to action—a pledge to future generations, a promise to leave behind a world teeming with life, not choked by our waste and consumed by greed. It’s time to move beyond the buzzwords and start building a sustainable future, together.

As we settle into the regular rhythms of life this year, let’s look to change things up. Let’s shift our focus, rethink how we do things, and make 2024 the year we see a glimmer of hope.

Join Glimmer and keep the conversation going. Let’s build a better, greener tomorrow!

Check out some of our other blogs for some really helpful ideas on how you can help make a difference.

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