Sustainability Made Simple

Photo: Port-au-Prince, Haiti 2014 by Rosaly Byrd

What does sustainability have to do with sustainable development? We hear about sustainable development, the United Nations, and the Sustainable Development Goals, but how does this relate to individuals’ daily lives? These two common questions don’t get enough attention yet are valid questions that should be explored more. Both sustainability and sustainable development can often seem like complex and abstract concepts, yet they are one in the same, since one can’t occur without the other.

Sustainability at the individual level is fundamental to achieving sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aren’t an initiative just for the UN to implement and work to realize. Ensuring that these goals are successful means connecting them with individuals and bringing them into daily lives. It’s the responsibility of individuals to not only incorporate sustainability into routines, but to also hold policymakers accountable and pressure them to act on sustainability as well. It is in this way that we will achieve sustainable development.

The new book Sustainability Made Simple: Small Changes for Big Impact, co-authored by Rosaly Byrd, one of the RIO+ Centre’s team members, makes this connection between the global and the individual. The book explores the connection between environmental concerns such as deforestation, pollution, and climate change– all specific issues targeted by the SDGs – and our own lives. Deforestation, for instance, has global ramifications for sustainable development although the root causes are largely traced back to the global economic system of which individuals are an important part. By paying attention to our own habits and consumption patterns (i.e. what and how much we consume) and supporting less environmentally destructive practices, we as individuals can contribute to achieving SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (Climate action), and SDG 15 (Life on land), and thus sustainable development in general.

Yet Sustainability Made Simple also acknowledges that it is easy to get overwhelmed and pessimistic about the global challenges our society faces, particularly if no instruction is given on how to change things. The book bridges the disconnect between the average individual and the research and work that is being done relating to sustainability, while also guiding and communicating what individuals can do (and are doing) about it. Emphasizing that we can change this system by being more mindful and incorporating some habits into our life, Sustainability Made Simple stresses that sustainability is an opportunity to transform our society for the better.

The authors of Sustainability Made Simple, who are also co-founders of The Sustainability Co-Op, will host “sustainability events” around the world, with the first ones to take place in San Francisco and in Florida, USA. The RIO+ Centre will also promote a workshop with the authors in Rio de Janeiro as part of the RIO+ Talks series.

Stay tuned as the RIO+ Centre will be publishing excerpts and tips from the book Sustainability Made Simple to help you contribute and support the realization of the SDGs.  For more information about the authors and to keep up to date in the world of sustainability, visit The Sustainability Co-Op’s website: