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Sustainable living – Germany-Alumni take on responsibility

With its campaign “Sustainable living – I support this!”, the Alumniportal wants to show that Germany-Alumni all over the world are committed to a sustainable life according to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Alumni from 115 different countries took part and tell us now what the SDGs mean to them personally.

“My neighbour cut down the only tree providing shade in our corner of the estate, because it was shedding too many leaves, which she felt she had to sweep every day. Together with her, we planted two new trees that don’t shed quite so much.” Leo Munayo Mutisya from Kenya is sure that the local climate will benefit from the new trees. His action demonstrates the very meaning of “sustainability”: Whoever cuts down a tree, plants a new one. Those who secure the renewal of the resources they use, act sustainably.

The Sustainable Development Goals: Integration and responsibility

By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, the United Nations placed the issue of sustainability at the very top of the global agenda. They launched a catalogue of 17 sustainable development goals that aimed at reaching three ambitious objectives with the next 15 years: ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and regulating climate change.

This „Agenda 2030“ builds on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed upon in 2001 and which mainly applied to developing countries. What is new about the SDGs is that they address all states: They all have to contribute in order to reach the set goals concerning all countries, no matter whether they are rich or poor.

Another novelty lies in the extension of the goal of poverty reduction by including the great ecological issues: Poverty can only be fought successfully if strategies are conceived with the larger problem in mind. Their implementation should be interlocked with measures that promote economic growth with due regard to such social needs as education, health and social security, as well as to initiatives to fight climate change.

It is vital that not only governments take action, but that every one of us takes on this responsibility. “Global aspirations start with local actions”, agrees Alumniportal member “mtelli” from Brazil. Germany-Alumnua Anjali Sinha from India adds: “We can start with the basics at individual levels, like minimizing wastages of water, electricity, food, etc. Every bit will make a positive contribution“. Obviously, a single person cannot solve global problems like climate change, poverty and hunger in the world, but together we can make a commitment towards a more sustainable, aware life.

On the individual level, there are various methods of keeping one’s “ecological footprint” low. We can, for instance, make responsible choices at the supermarket, plan our journeys sustainably or deal respectfully with nature. The message is: Together, we can make a difference.

Thumbs up: “Sustainable living – I support this!”

With its campaign “Sustainable living – I support this!”, which was a part of its focus topic “Sustainable living”, the Alumniportal Deutschland wanted to support this premise and show that Germany-Alumni all over the world are aware of the responsibility that each one of us bears. By using its global network, the Alumniportal could demonstrate that a large community of committed Germany-Alumni supports the Sustainable Development Goals.

Since the beginning of the campaign in late September 2015, every Alumniportal member could express their support and show their commitment by activating a “Green Thumb”-symbol in their community profile. The clicks were counted and the total result was displayed on a continually updated world-map.

The result gives reason for optimism regarding a better, sustainable future: Hundreds of Germany-Alumni from 115 different countries joined the campaign until late February 2016. All continents are represented, with Europe, Asia and Africa leading the way. India is the country with the most activated “Green Thumbs”, followed closely by Tunisia and Vietnam.

There are no winners or losers in this campaign; its point is rather to show that there are in fact people all over the world who are aware of their responsibility towards future generations.

Germany-Alumni get active for sustainability

Many alumni followed our appeal and not only activated their “Green Thumb” in the Alumnportal’s community, but also put their commitment to this issue into words.

“We must be conscious of the fact that our lifestyles are not sustainable and we need to take corrective action NOW!” Anjali Sinha emphasizes the urgency of adapting our ways of life in order to make the Sustainable Development Goals achievable by 2030. And she adds: “I understand sustainability in a holistic manner and would incorporate several things into it, beyond mere environment consciousness.” Gladis Maritza Calderón Ysmodes from Peru agrees that an approach which considers the entire problem is important: “Sustainable living means to change our lives in different areas, like consumption, recycling, health, education and environment.”

How can Germany-Alumni contribute to the SDGs in their everyday lives? Irma Yadira Gamez from Honduras writes: “I follow two rules to keep my ecological footprint low: At home, I have a place to throw organic waste and in my office, I try to use a minimum of paper.” Leo Munyao Mutisya from Kenya also tackles the issue from various angles: “In order to make my small contribution, I use a recyclable bag for supermarket shopping and I try not to depend on plastic bags at the kiosk either. I cook with gas, because it is less pollutant, and I switch off the electricity when not in use, among other things.” Even at Christmas, Edeltraud Anja Baker, who lives in Zambia, keeps the issue of sustainability in mind: “Most of my decorations are made from recycled cardboard, fabric, containers etc.; whatever is handy. For this year I would like to try a bigger Christmas tree made from recycled cardboard and fabric, using seed pods, twigs and leaves from trees in the surrounding area.”

Ildiko Tulbure from Romania wonders whether sustainable living has a different meaning for people, depending on where they live and what their circumstances are. She concludes: “Sustainability actually means the same all over the world, only its implementation requires different tools and instruments. To live sustainably means actually to keep the use of energy, electricity, food, and material consumption as low as possible all over the world. To really put these goals into practice, we need to consider specific conditions in each part of the world.”

February 2016

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