The United Nations, in its resolution 54/120 in 1999, declared August 12 as International Youth Day  in order to celebrate the youth and highlight their contributions and importance to our society. This year, the theme of the International Youth Day is “The Road to 2030; Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Production and Consumption.” The commemoration of which will recognize the importance of youth efforts, collaboration and participation in the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and particularly the young people’s role in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable production and consumption.
A majority of us are familiar with the term poverty, but just to be clear, poverty pertains to the general scarcity, dearth or state of a person who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money. It can also be considered as a multifaceted concept – one that includes social, economic and political elements . On the other hand, sustainable consumption entails the use of products and services that meet the basic needs of communities while at the same time safeguarding the needs of future generations . The increase in resource efficiency and the move towards sustainable production could significantly contribute to meeting and providing the basic needs of the majority of people – including making food, water, and energy more accessible and affordable even to those living in poverty.
What can we do?
The next question is why should we care about International Youth Day? The United Nations defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24. The total number of youth, or young people in the world is currently pegged at 1.8 billion – that’s approximately 24% of the total world population of 7.4 billion. This equates to a huge potential to transform countries, and even the world for better or worse – either of which largely depends on what kind of values, morals, and knowledge we are willing to impart to our youth. This is huge responsibility for each and every one of us. So, just because we may be way past our 24th birthday and not feeling too youthful as of the moment does not mean we could not do anything about it.
As adults, a majority of us have youths in our lives – they could be our sons, daughters, godsons, goddaughters, nephews, nieces, neighbors, or even friends; and one of the best things we can do for them this International Youth Day is to impart a few life values that they would hopefully carry with them into adulthood. Here are a few things we can do that could set a good example for the youth in our lives:
On eradicating poverty:
Help end forced and cheap labor by supporting companies who value fair compensation and workers’ rights. The best way to do this is by buying authentic products – those “Class AAA” or overrun products may be way cheaper than their authentic counterparts, but one of the reasons they are cheap is that they are most likely produced by shady sweat shops who employ cheap and even child labor. Supporting and buying these products will only support an industry who does not value fair and just compensation.
Support local and startup companies; buy fair trade products. Instead of buying cheap knockoffs, you could consider supporting and buying from local and small businesses in your area. This includes small farmers in your local farmer’s markets, and even handmade items from your local artists who sell their wares in fairs and the Internet. Supporting local and small businesses help distribute revenues. The same goes for buying fair trade products – you will be participating in a sustainable trade system by doing so – and one that provides fair recompense for workers and manufacturers for their work. This way, impoverished communities around the world will have the opportunity to earn.
Volunteer. Poverty is everywhere. Identify what your community needs and act on it. It can be as simple as visiting a local shelter, volunteering for soup kitchen duty, sponsoring an orphan, teaching or being a big brother or sister to street kids, donating unused items, or even just talking to the homeless.
Support organizations whose goal is to fight poverty. The best thing about the Internet is its power to connect us to anyone, anywhere. Use this power to connect and support organizations end poverty. You can check these out for starters:
Simplify and live within your means. Perhaps the first thing to do to tackle overconsumption in our life is to assess our way of living. Reduce your consumption by eating and shopping more responsibly, reusing and upcycling as much as possible. Identify your needs and wants – set a criteria and stick to it whenever you are out to shop. At the same time, you can also make a conscious effort to establish sustainable habits in your home, such as: eating more vegetables and less meat, conserving water and electricity, recycling and upcycling items, and prioritizing quality over quantity in necessities such as clothes. These may be small changes, but they have the potential to exponentially grow and affect big changes in the world especially if we could pass such habits to our kids and the youth.
Grow your own food. You can promote sustainable living by growing your own vegetables in your garden or lawn, or even participating in your local community garden. Doing so have a lot of advantages both for your family and the Earth, such as: producing healthier and organic vegetables for your consumption, and offsetting carbon emissions.
Go minimal-istic. Or in other words, practice minimalism. Doing so does not mean living without anything; instead it means that you are ensuring that you get the most out of everything you own.
Do small, easy actions every day. Changing the world need not be a big life-changing, earth-shattering event. The small actions we do everyday, and influence others to do, could result into big changes that could affect the world positively. To make things easier for you and to give you ideas, the United Nations has compiled a Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World – just click, read, and do.