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Tackling climate change starts at home

A blog post by Catherine Gee

There’s no doubt that sometimes the working of international agreements seem rather remote from our everyday lives. Often, it’s easy to convey the big picture, and leave the practical implementation far behind. However, that should not always be the case, and Keep Scotland Beautiful has been focused on delivering the global ambitions set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 Global Goals were adopted by the UN in 2015 to protect the health of our planet, reduce poverty and address gender equality. 

Goal 12 is about Sustainable consumption and production. It’s about “doing more and better with less”. UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon was absolutely right when he said: “A sustainable world is one where people can escape poverty and enjoy decent work without harming the earth’s essential ecosystems and resources...”. Powerful words, but what does this look like on the ground? Our charity is determined, through our many initiatives to give practical, and powerful effect to that ambition. Through these diverse actions, we’re determined to play our part in delivering global change.

In particular, Goal 12 challenges us to “substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse”, and behaviour change is at the heart of this. If, as a society, we are to make a difference, each of us – as individuals, communities and businesses – need to stop and think about our own behaviours and make changes. Now, more than ever before, our society needs to have responsible consumers who think carefully about the impacts of the products they buy and who would never discard items as litter – keeping valuable materials like plastics and paper in our economy and protecting our planet.

There’s no better example of how we can do that than our Cup Movement® in Glasgow. Launched in January, our Cup Movement® has been developed in response to growing public concern about the environmental impact of single-use items. With an estimated 95 million single-use cups being used in the Greater Glasgow area every year, our pioneering Cup Movement® will tackle this issue head on by transforming recycling infrastructure and encouraging people to adopt more sustainable behaviours – diverting millions of cups from their bins and instead transform them into second-life materials. 

Currently, only 4% of cups are recycled nationally – which means a shocking 96% are not. That’s the kind of unsustainable use of resources that can’t continue if our Global Goals are to be met, so little wonder that the reaction from the public, employers and retailers across Glasgow has been so positive as they line up to join. It’s an example of real national and international leadership – we aim to make this a model that can be adopted by other cities across the UK and Europe.

Not only does Goal 12 encourage us to think about what we buy and how it’s produced, it also calls for people everywhere to have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and “lifestyles in harmony with nature”. Our Upstream Battle campaign is a great example of practical implementation of this Goal. Focusing on the length of the River Clyde we’re working with communities along the river and its tributaries to survey and clean up their local area, contribute to a Clyde-wide litter prevention plan and inform wider decision making. Given that 80% of ocean litter comes from land, we’re clear that action at home in our communities can deliver the global change we need.

The cleaner and more sustainable country we want to be is the headline goal of our Clean Up Scotland campaign – helping build community pride and make Scotland clean for future generations. Keep Scotland Beautiful develops and supports local groups and organisations across Scotland by providing Clean Up kits to help spread the message that a litter-free environment is a precondition for well-being, community spirit and environmental sustainability. Last year alone, during our Spring Clean months of April and May, over 30,000 people from across Scotland cleared 300 tonnes of litter from our streets, parks and beaches.

The United Nations may seem a remote concept in everyday life, but at Keep Scotland Beautiful, we are determined to bring the Global Goals to life – delivering local action with global impact. Many of us can take small steps in our everyday lives to support Goal 12. We can take our own bags to the supermarket, use a reusable coffee cup instead of a disposable one, and think twice when we’re making purchases. We can choose to dispose of our litter responsibly and ensure that it can be recycled into second-life materials. Collectively, small changes can make a big difference, and it’s up to us to make that choice.

Originally published on 2 May 2019 on Friends of the Scotsman.

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