It means helping everyone who makes day-to-day decisions to be more environmentally friendly. According to Google Trends, in the last 90 days, search interest in “How to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle” has increased by more than 4,550%.
As many of us find our new normal while sheltering at home, we wanted to share some of our favourite simple sustainability tips.
Saving the planet is saving money.
If I would tell you that storing your food in the right place, freezing the leftovers, using the dishwasher (instead of washing dishes by hand), and turning the water heater down just a few degrees could help protect the environment, you might think that it sounds too simple.
However, the biggest impact on the planet comes from only three things: food, water and energy use.
If each of us makes a few small changes, we can all make a big difference (and save money while doing it).
According to Google, the “how-to” search has seen a spike in sustainability queries related to food, recycling and composting.
“How to freeze” has been a popular question. Here are a few of the answers I found particularly helpful:
1. How to freeze milk? Place the milk in your freezer in its original plastic container or glass freezer-safe container. Make sure to leave room to allow the milk to expand, so remove some milk if needed. When you’re ready to use the frozen milk, allow it to thaw in the fridge.
2. How to freeze eggs? To freeze whole eggs, you simply mix the eggs together and pour the mixture into either an ice cube tray or a freezer-safe container or bag. If you will need to use individual eggs, it would make more sense to make sure each ice cube tray holds only one egg so that you can easily separate them.
3. How to freeze broccoli? Broccoli—florets and stems—must be blanched for effective freezing. If you freeze it raw, you’ll wind up with bitter, drab green, shrivelled stems. Blanching or steaming preserves the bright green colour and tasty flavour. You can either blanch in boiling water for three minutes or steam for five minutes.
So, what are the most powerful actions for sustainable living from home?
1. Reducing plastic waste and switching to reusables.
2. Take care of your energy and water consumption, if you can install some energy-efficient lightbulbs and taps, do it!
3. Opting for local produce.
4. Embracing natural cleaning products.
5. Rejecting fast fashion. Just stop buying clothes.
6. Reducing single-use plastic consumption.
7. Composting, you can also invite your neighbours!
8. Reusing and recycling as many items as possible.
9. Sleep well, if you sleep well, you reduce your anxiety, and with this, your consumption of food and energy.
10. Opt for board games or a book if you feel bored.
11. Save your money in ethical banks (We will discuss it more in a future post at The Global School)
Nature-based solutions harness the power of nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also help us adapt to the impacts of climate change. They are win-win solutions that involve protecting, restoring and sustainably managing ecosystems to address society’s challenges and promote human well-being.
Forests are probably the most well-known nature-based solution for climate change, but there are many more – including peatlands, mangroves, wetlands, savannahs, coral reefs and other landscapes.
More and more NGOs, Activists and Educational Institutions are advocating for this concept, as a viable and powerful solution to tackle climate change and ecosystem collapse. This is the case of The Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit organization that equips people with a process to create nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet.
In a 9 chapters series, the Biomimicry Institute showcases how innovators from around the world are learning from nature to solve global challenges. At The Global School for Social Leaders, we love these amazing NGOs bringing great solutions with powerful messages:
1. How marine habitats are informing new concrete designs.
ECOncrete offers products that facilitate the growth and regeneration of local marine species and strengthen structures over time through a process known as bio-protection. Inspired by beach rock formations, coral polyps, oyster shells, mangrove roots, and other marine habitats and life forms, ECOncrete embodies biomimicry’s design intention: to learn from and mimic forms and processes found in nature to create regenerative solutions. Nature-Based Solutions:
2. How butterflies inspired a new type of paint.
Cypris Materials has developed a tunable structural colour coating that can be applied directly to surfaces as a paint. Their technology can improve the building and automobile energy efficiency by reflecting UV, visible, and infrared light, and it expands the available colour pallet while eliminating the use of toxic pigments and colourants. Nature-Based Solutions:
3. How trees inspired a new way to dispose of human waste.
change:WATER Labs (cWL) has developed a new way to dispose of human waste – by evaporating out the water! This technology emerged from work done for NASA on wastewater recycling on the International Space Station and is now being deployed in off-grid rural communities and refugee communities. Nature-Based Solutions:
“Because mindsets and paradigms guide behaviors, changing them can have a profound impact… People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transform systems.” — Donna Meadows, lead author, Limits to Growth²
1. Beyond GDP: Towards SDGs and Wellbeing.
While development efforts showcase success stories, such as the decrease in the number of people living in extreme poverty, the current paradigm is unable to fully explain successes and failures of development interventions. As we increasingly live beyond our planetary boundaries, inequality and mental health issues have been rising, and happiness and wellbeing remain elusive for many around the world.
Furthermore, given the number of crises — from climate change to COVID19 — alongside the ambitious nature of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is an urgent need to investigate the effectiveness of the 20th-century human development paradigm for the 21st century.
While the current human development approach shifted the development focus from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to a somewhat broader perspective some 30 years ago, we have not made major progress since to truly advance human development in a holistic manner.
Calls for a more holistic human development paradigm are supported by the Beyond GDP movement as well as other wellbeing initiatives around the world,³ and the need has also been recognized by the United Nations’ General Assembly (resolution 65/309: Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development, 2011). Global mindsets are very similar to paradigms in that they are the source of manifesting systems. As Achim Steiner, UNDP’s Administrator stated:
“We are now on the verge of shifting into an economic paradigm that is not about communism or capitalism; it is about recalibrating equity and sustainability into a development paradigm.” ⁴
2. Key Questions
Based on the need to rethink human development, the following key questions come to mind:
How can we shift towards a holistic development mindset that advances physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing?
Are we willing to leapfrog to an enlightened paradigm that recognizes and develops humans as multi-dimensional beings?
How to harmoniously advance the wellbeing of both people and the planet?
We protect and develop what we cherish, what we feel part of and connected with. Therefore, how can we nurture three essential connections: with our inner being, our communities and Mother Nature? The opportunity to create a new paradigm for the 21st century comes from combining current science with timeless wisdom. Could the root causes and transformative power of human development be within us?
3. Inspiration from Bhutan
Some countries have not fallen into the trap of blindly pursuing GDP and materialistic growth. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) awarded Bhutan with a Special Award of Recognition for holistically advancing human development in 2019.⁵ Bhutan famously declared Gross National Happiness (GNH) to be more important than GDP.
GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which is based on 9 pillars that balance material and non-material values.
It is noteworthy that GNH is not to be confused with a shallow understanding of fleeting happiness. Rather, GNH is a multi-dimensional approach which some argue is more holistic than the SDGs, given that it also entails dimensions such as psychological wellbeing, time use, community vitality, amongst others. The COVID19 crisis has amplified the importance of mental health.
Even before the crisis began, a staggering 800,000 people die due to suicide every year globally.⁶
Furthermore, Bhutan is heralded as a global example of a carbon-negative country that lives in harmony with nature. It is a biodiversity hotspot and is often seen as a leader in sustainable tourism. Its strong emphasis on health and protecting communities is seen as a success factor and has allowed the country to notably handle the COVID19 crisis.
It is evident that Bhutan’s enlightened development approach and leadership has led to extraordinary poverty reduction while protecting the environment.⁷
“Our generation is called upon to rethink, to redefine the true purpose of growth and, in doing so, to find a growth that is truly sustainable.
We must never forget that, for lasting peace and happiness in this world, the journey forward has to be one that we must all make together… It all starts with leadership of the self”.⁸— His Majesty the 5th King of Bhutan, 2011
4. The Blind Spot: Mindsets
The strong focus of development assistance on external factors and measurable progress has left aside an understanding of internal factors and potential hidden root causes. Internal factors such as mindsets can play a transformative role in people’s, nations’ and humanity’s development journey.
While there has been researching on behavioural insights, self-empowerment, personal development, leadership and transformation in some specialized fields such as psychology, sociology, philosophy and neuroscience, there has been no — or minimal — direct connections made to human development approaches. There is indeed a significant knowledge gap on inner dimensions, which are more difficult to measure — such as people’s mindsets.
These ‘soft’ inner factors have, so far, not been well considered in the field of human development, in contrast to ‘hard’ indicators such as income levels, life expectancy and years of education.
This underscores the need for a new holistic approach that takes the interaction between internal and external factors into account, for development to be transformative and advance sustainable wellbeing for people and planet. As Nobel peace prize winner Prof. Muhammad Yunus illuminates: “Unless we change our mind we cannot change the world.” ⁹
5. The Key Role of Mindsets
Mindsets are the invisible leverage point to be included in a new 21st-century human development paradigm. Mindsets are made up of our deep beliefs, attitudes and values; they frame our thinking and therefore determine our behaviour, life experiences and journey.
They influence how people lead their lives, how they vote, what personal, educational and professional opportunities they pursue, and what they make out of crises, challenges and opportunities. Even national policies and global development goals spring off national and global mindsets.
For example, during the COVID19 crisis, we can perceive staying at home as being forced into lock-down or consider it as voluntarily protecting our vulnerable elderly. Mindsets are not, of course, a panacea and external factors should not be negated altogether.
However, by acknowledging the role of inner dimensions, foremost mindsets, we emphasize the agency that people have in realizing their true human potential. History is full of change-makers and social leaders who have overcome and changed their external circumstances and structures and therefore written history.
6. Need for a Global Mindset Shift: Holistic Development for Planetary Wellbeing.
It is widely accepted that the SDGs cannot be achieved by business as usual. For behaviour and actions to be different, they require a new way of thinking, a new mindset and a sense of urgency for transformational change. The urgency to shift towards a development paradigm that finally translates the ‘beyond-GDP’ aspiration into a wellbeing and sustainability mindset with its corresponding concept and measurements are increasing.¹⁰
In systems thinking and leadership, shifting mindsets is considered the highest leverage point to change a system, even higher than policies and goals. Shifting the global mindset towards a wellbeing economy can be inspired by examples from Bhutan, Costa Rica and New Zealand, amongst others.
This indeed also reflects the call by UN Deputy Secretary-General for a “New paradigm shift to replace the traditional sustainable development approach to realize the 2030 Agenda”.¹¹
7. Suggestions for Mindset Shifts.
While we are largely unaware of mindsets due to their intangible nature, mindsets can be changed. Pressing issues such as greed, violence and discrimination also start in our mind, and in the minds and hearts are the keys to transformational development.
Six mindset shifting suggestions:
1. Sustainable transformation happens from the inside out. 2. Mindsets matter. They play an important role in human development at the individual, collective and global level. 3. Mindsets can be shifted by increasing awareness, fostering self-reflection and self-responsibility. 3. Solutions need to be co-created which requires a mindset shift of development practitioners themselves. 4. Current development approaches are too materialistic; therefore they need to move beyond overly focusing on GDP and economic development. 5. A new holistic development paradigm should include inner, collective and planetary wellbeing.
While the above-mentioned points indicate the important role of mindsets, there is a blind spot in the academic and development literature. This calls for further research exploring the role that mindsets play in human development, towards sustainability, transformation and wellbeing for people and planet.
About the Author:
Jürgen Nagler is the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Bhutan. He has over 20 years’ experience in successfully delivering global, regional and field projects with the UNDP, UN Global Compact, international NGOs and private sector.
He joined the United Nations after a 10-year career with international companies and founding an international grassroots NGO. He completed first-class Bachelors in Business Administration (Germany) and Masters in International Development (Australia).
Jürgen has a passion for transformative development towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is researching the role of mindsets for holistic human development, in a personal capacity. Jürgen can be contacted at jjnagler[at]gmail.com.
This article was originally published for the International Science Council and UNDP’s Human Development Report Office global experts’ call for new perspectives on human development.
Forthcoming Study on Mindsets
If you would like to receive a free copy of a mindsets study, which will be published in 2021, please register at www.wellbeingmindset.org.
Addendum: Wellbeing Mindset
What is a wellbeing mindset? Following the publication of this article, I’ve developed the following working definition, feedback welcome: “A wellbeing mindset means the whole of attitudes, believes and values of a person or group of people that fosters wellbeing. Wellbeing of a person, group of people, the whole of humanity, other sentient beings such as animals, and/or planet Earth.”
1. Attributed to multiple wisdom teachers, foremost the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. See a similar translation for the Buddha at Easwaran, Eknath (2007), “The Dhammapada: Classics of Indian Spirituality.”
2. Meadows, Donella (1999). “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System.”
I spent the last few days in the mountains celebrating X-MAS with my dear ones and while relaxing I finally managed to read one of the best books I have read in ages- ” Doughnut Economics ” by Kate Raworth. I wanted to take some time offline but I have to share this as I hope it inspires some of you to take a different look at economics in 2020.
Finally, I found the book that brings together all the hypothesis and concepts I was drawn to over the past years and puts them into a holistic picture how we can look at economics in a 21st century way.
When researching about the author Kate Raworth- an economist at the University of Oxford, who calls herself a “renegade” economist- she is sometimes referred to as the “John Maynard Keynes of the 21st century”.
From my point of view, her simple and brilliant book Doughnut Economics offers a game-changing analysis of our current economic system and is an inspiration for thinkers how to look at our world in a different way. She presents a very convincing concept on how to create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design- a subject very dear to my heart.
Kate Raworths economic theory is based on the picture of a doughnut. The doughnut has a social foundation and human well-being in the middle, and is itself ‘the safe and just space for humanity’ and for a ‘regenerative and distributive economy’, surrounded on the outer edge by the ecological ceiling of ‘critical planetary degradation’.
The overall target should be to remain within the doughnut to ensure that we neither fall into conditions of social inequality and suffer shortfalls, such as in water and food, nor allow growth to overshoot into threatening environmental collapse.
Kate Raworths research on the history of economics and where our guiding concepts originate from was the most appealing element of the book for me. As a person educated in economics I “grew” up with the paradigm of economic growth. The thoughts of the neoliberal Chicago School and their concept dominated my way of thinking about the economy.
And most of you who studied economics for sure came across Samulsons “Economics” textbook. The way we learned economics then still dominates our decision-making for the future, guides our investment decisions, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times. However, those concepts do not suit the challenges we are facing today.
“The fundamental ideas that guide our economy today are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike!”
This is dangerous and the effects can be seen in the in rising inequality and the environmental challenges we are facing nowadays. That’s why it is time, says Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century.
She proposes 7 ways of thinking – that in her view should guide 21st-century economists. With those seven ways, I can very much relate. How about you?
The 7 Principles of the Doughnut Economy…
… and my thoughts on them
1. Change the goal—from GDP to the Doughnut. Doughnut Economics
The continuous growth of the gross national product (GDP) has been the goal of mainstream economics’ ever since the mid-20th century. Raworth argues economic growth cannot by itself solve all other problems our societies are facing and it cannot last forever, due to the scarcity of resources. Delivering well-being for people and the planet (our “planetary household”) as laid out in the picture of the doughnut should be the main purpose of economics instead of growth and profits.
Ever since I got in touch with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development goals they are a guiding star for the impact I want to make in the world. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint for the transition to a healthier planet and a more just world — for present and future generations.
Those goals are reflected in the inner and outer dimension of the doughnut. They are a powerful concept interlinking the social, ecological and economic aspects of sustainability.When I started my first activities in the social business world my major concern was inequality.
But studying migration management I more and more learned about the interconnectivity of social and ecological aspects, which led me to support Fridays for Future and join Entrepreneurs for Future and actively advocate for stronger political action on climate-related issues as social issues can only be really solved if ecological and economical issues are also taken care of.
As a social entrepreneur, I feel that running a business on more KPIs than just financial growth by adding the social and ecological impact is very satisfying and I am deeply convinced, that this could also be a motivating way for all players in our society.
2. See the big picture—from self-contained market to embedded economy. Doughnut Economics
In neoliberal economics, the market rules. It’s supposed to most efficiently allocate resources when left to its own devices. The regulation ought to be minimal, the state’s role restricted to providing security to its citizens and protecting private property. Society is irrelevant, and the Earth’s resources seen as unlimited and thus left out of the equation.
Kate Raworth advocates stepping back and taking a broader view to see the economy how it really is, embedded within Earth’s natural systems and within human society. Within the economy itself, households, the market, the state and the commons all have an equally important role to play in meeting human needs. None should be given primacy over the others, but they should all be supported to serve human welfare in mutually complementing ways. I could not agree more to this holistic picture
3. Nurture human nature—from rational economic man to social adaptable humans. Doughnut Economics
Neoclassical economics bases its theories on a limited view of human nature, the notorious endlessly rationalizing and self-maximizing homo economicus. Kate Raworth tries to draw a picture of him: Standing alone, with money in his hand, ego in his heart, a calculator in his head and nature at his feet. He hates work, he loves luxury and he knows the price of everything. The whole concept was brought up to make it easier to argue economic models.
Raworth argues that we need a new picture of the person we picture as a base for our economic models taking into account our capacities for solidarity, empathy and reciprocity.How I hated the model of the “homo economicus” when studying economics! I remember long arguments then up to now that humans are not selfish and ego-driven.
The really bad part about “homo economicus” is that studies show that the more we learn about it the more selfish we become so it is more than time to come up with a better picture – we are so much more than a dollar hunting animal.
Why would we set out and found charities, help others, found social businesses and the like if men would just be selfish?
4. Get savvy with systems—from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity. Doughnut Economics
The book brings up the historic context of how economics as a science was shaped. Economics became a science when economists started to introduce diagrams and concepts resembling Newtons diagrams and mechanic thinking. Economists have for a long time strived to simplify economic models to resemble linear mechanical models.
However, our world gets more and more complex day by day and the only way to master this complexity is system thinking. Thinking in terms of systems can do a far better job helping us understand how our world works and what actions we could take to reverse negative developments. I think this is especially true if you look at fast technological developments that will shape our future
5. Design to distribute—from ‘growth will even it up again’ to distributive by design. Doughnut Economics
Raworth says inequality is neither good for growth nor a necessary stage of development. On the contrary, more unequal societies are shown to be less healthy and happy and to face a higher degree of environmental degradation.
Redistributing income is not enough to address the situation, for most of the rise in inequality we see today is due to wealth concentration resulting from returns on capital.When we started our venture goood network we were lucky to work with Karl Wagner, former director of external affairs of the Club of Rome. T
he discussions we had when working on our manifesto were very inspiring and I learned a lot about how to look at the world in a different way.Karl co-authored a discussion paper of the Club of Rome- The Values Quest where he argues in the line of Kate Raworth that our theory and practice of economy do not rest on natural laws but on the underlying values.
To have an unequal society instead of an equal one is our choice, it is not a given by nature. To change the world for the better we need to address values and the narratives they are embedded in. Based on his thoughts I started to rethink what I can do to help change the current system and this is why I started to speak publicly and advocate for purpose and sustainability.
6. Create to regenerate—from ‘growth will clean it up again’ to regenerative by design. Doughnut Economics
As regards the environment, our current economic setup is eating up Earth’s resources at one end and spewing out waste from the other. We should instead strive to design a circular economy with all the energy and resources in constant flow – reused, renewed, returned to the planet’s life cycle where the “waste” of one process can be turned into input for another process.
The circular economy is rather a new concept for me, but I think it is super fascinating. As a consumer, I am drawn to intelligent products based on circular concepts and as an innovator and entrepreneur, I see opportunities emerging from new collaborations.
One of my goals for 2020 is to learn more about the concept and how we as a network of system-thinkers can contribute. I am looking forward to an interesting exchange and discussions on the topic with all of you.
7. Be agnostic about growth—from growth addicted to growth agnostic. Doughnut Economics
So my wish for 2020: Let´s break free of our old picture of economics and transform to a 21-century concept of economics. Even if you are on a New Years diet- get involved with the Doughnut- I am convinced it will serve us and our world well.
Passionate, internationally recognized award-winning Social Innovator.Entrepreneur and serial founder of various ventures e.g. Adjacent Possible Network (Consulting), GOOOD Network(Impact Incubation) and goood mobile Germany & Austria (B2C mobile operators) as well as co-founder of an impact initiative for social inclusion.
Passionate about social impact and impact innovation, I believe in the power of shaping a positive tomorrow by transforming traditional business models for the next generation.Corporate Executive background with 15+ years of track record in managing leading international ICT companies in very challenging market environments, serving millions of customers.Continuous consulting assignments (strategy & operational tactics development, business planning) and business development with a focus on customer experience, digital transformation and impact innovation.
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