A Few Goals for the Future
Over the past few years, we have seen a spike in climate activism, and many policies and practices across the world have been revised in a more sustainable fashion. However, climate change may appear to be too complex to resolve or too challenging to comprehend, which can confuse people regarding what they should do. In these situations, some may ask questions like “What should I do?” or “What do I fix first?”, and the sheer complexity of the problem can stop the solution before it’s even hatched.
Fortunately, the United Nations (UN) may help clear up uncertainty through their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN created 17 different goals that all underline various social issues 5 of which concern the environment. The actions of many businesses in the Toronto area are starting to adhere to one or more of these sustainable development goals, as will be explored below.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
There is a relationship between the quality of life of people living in cities and how they utilize the available resources from their environment, and it is only becoming more evident. For years the increase in the world population and urbanization has put a lot of pressure on the environment, due to the booming demand for manufactured goods and agricultural products. Naturally, as demand overshadows supply, competition for resources has led to a steadily increasing gap between the wealthy and everyone else. For some, their reality may include living in slums, far away from the public services, and others might have it worse. Thus, the purpose of this goal is to make the relation between cities and people more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Essentially, this goal makes sure that we transform current living environments and create new ones in such a way that gives an equal opportunity for everyone to reside in a harmless community that will be sustainable for generations and good for the environment.
Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production
Consuming things and services, despite being enjoyable for everyone and profitable for large corporations, has a devastating impact on the environment since everything we enjoy buying pollutes the planet in one way or another. Consequently, more and more people are starting to be more aware of their lifestyle’s ecological footprint, which leads to a favourable environment for the introduction of sustainable goods and services in the market. Even though interest in the sustainable and zero-waste industries is growing, the production of unsustainable goods far outweighs these small industries. So essentially, the purpose of this goal is to reduce the environmental impact of current and future economic activities in order to respect our planetary boundaries, whether that is through reducing the impact that current production has on the environment or by creating entirely new chains of production.
Goal 13: Climate Action
As climate change becomes more prominent in our lives, so too does the subconscious anxiety of climate disaster. This is a very valid fear, as flooding, acid rain and other climate-related issues become more and more commonplace. People’s lives will get affected by this phenomenon at different degrees, no matter where they are, ranging from extreme weather conditions to the deprivation of basic resources and services. Therefore, the UN’s 13th sustainable development goal’s motive is to ensure that there is something done to prevent climate change from further causing problems to the planet and going against its current environmental issues.
Goal 14: Life below Water
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, making oceans and other water bodies crucial when it comes to maintaining life on our planet. In fact, water ecosystems are essential as they play various vital roles to support life on Earth: large bodies of water regulate land temperatures, provide us with drinking water, are home to millions of other species and are a major carbon sink. Though oceans provide a lot for humans, we have unfortunately not returned the favour. Oceans are affected by many problems, such as ocean acidification (where the more acid an ocean gets, the higher its marine life to suffer) and pollution by human activities (industrial waste dumped in waters, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, etc.) Consequently, this SDG’s objective is to preserve and sustainably use the ocean, aquatic resources, and marine life.
Goal 15: Life on Land
Like the water ecosystems mentioned above, the planet’s terrestrial ecosystems also play an important role in supporting life on Earth. The ground provides numerous resources and ecosystem services (preserving the soil’s quality through weathering, providing a habitat for biodiversity and providing new nutrients via the parent material), making it possible for many human activities to happen. Unfortunately, agriculture, infrastructure and urbanization have all degraded soil qualities around the world, stripping them of their important qualities. As the amount of land available diminishes, the list of environmental problems grows: the biodiversity decreases as some beings may go extinct, the ground starts degrading, the quantity of forest areas around the world keeps declining, and so on. Fortunately, these situations can hopefully get better with the UN’s 15th SDG as its mission is to protect the land, reverse all of its issues, and promote the sustainable use of the terrestrial ecosystems and their resources.
Now that you have an idea of what the 5 environmental SDGs are let’s take a look at some of the many businesses in Toronto that consider these goals in their plans.
The first business that will be discussed is Sustainable, a B Corp (Benefit Corporation, a business that benefits society) that combines architecture and design for a durable planet. This company’s actions touch upon 3 of the SDGs mentioned above: Goal 11, 13, and 15. Indeed, it is evident that this firm’s operations adhere to those 3 goals as Sustainable focuses on creating infrastructures that are good on the environment and maximize the use of land to bring something meaningful to the community. For instance, many of their house building and renovation projects maximize the use of space and reduce energy use at home, helping to prevent climate change. Then, they actively try to help counter bee losses by installing bee hotels in various places in the Toronto area, which helps the biodiversity. Additionally, Sustainable also tries to make communities safer and more inclusive by transforming laneways and spaces in your backyard into apartments. They also make sure to include places where many people can attend, such as the Vault, a shared office space that once was the former Bank of Canada building, the yoga and fitness studio named Afterglow, and many more places.
Unboxed Market & other Green Supermarkets
Nowadays, many sustainable shops are starting to establish in the Toronto area and offer environmentally conscious goods and services, which will influence the way people consume things, i.e. these businesses work towards the 12th sustainable development goal. As mentioned above, SDG 12 is about ensuring that society’s consumption and consumables production patterns become sustainable (“Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production”). Knowing that food occupies an important place in our daily consumption, food-related businesses will be discussed in this paragraph. 3 different markets were chosen: Unboxed Market, Yam Chops, and Organic Garage.
Unboxed Market, just like a regular market, carries various products ranging from food to self-care products. However, Unboxed Market distinguishes itself from the lot by offering zero waste goods, meaning that they are natural and come in little to no packaging, promoting the use of produce bags and other reusable containers. This zero-waste market helps make our buying habits and production more sustainable as people can replace what they use daily for more environmentally friendly options. Also, less waste comes in and out of the things we buy.
Yam Chops is North America’s first vegan butcher shop, and they offer plant-based meats. They help achieve the UN’s 12th SDG as plant-based meat products are not as polluting and require fewer resources to make than their animal counterparts. Thus, making vegan meats more accessible to people will make our consumption habits more eco-friendly as we have more opportunities to modify our diet.
Lastly, Organic Garage, an organic supermarket chain, works toward the same goal as the other two businesses above as they sell organic foods at an affordable price. Compared to regular non-organic foods, additive-free foods will make our ecological footprint lighter because they stop letting harmful chemicals get in the ground and the groundwater. Furthermore, organic farming leads to greater biodiversity and releases less greenhouse gas emissions, making the production and consumption of organic foods sustainable.
De La Mer
One Torontonian business that works towards the 14th SDG is De La Mer, a fish market that only sells sustainable products. Unlike regular fisheries that catch their goods unsustainably, which mainly leads to the decrease in marine biodiversity because they overfish, De La Mer offers a wide array of fish options that range from natural, farm-raised to sustainably caught fish and other seafood. De La Mer’s products are deemed environmentally conscious according to 4 criteria by De La Mer’s partner, Ocean Wise, an organization that vows to protect and restore the planet’s oceans. The 4 criteria include requiring marine species to be plentiful and resilient for fishing pressures, having marine life well managed, and having harvest methods that limit bycatch and damage to aquatic habitats. By partnering with Ocean Wise and selling their goods, De La Mer not only reduces human activity in the water because they promote and sell sustainable sea products, but they also let the sea biodiversity replenish itself! February is Ocean Wise month, meaning that De La Mer celebrates and promotes sustainable fishing and farming by donating a percentage of the profit from selling products from Ocean Wise. This way, De La Mer is on a solid path to achieve the 14th SDG since their own practices and partners align with this goal.
Now that we have reached the end of this article, I hope that you learned at least something new, whether it is about the sustainable development goals or some of the businesses in Toronto that support them. These SDGs are created to hopefully be achieved in 2030, which is less than 10 years from now. So, while there still is time, let’s all do what we can to help reach a better state of the planet. If you want to learn more about the United Nations' SDGs or these businesses, check out their websites and other social media platforms! If you found this article interesting and want to enjoy more content, read our other blog articles and follow us on social media. See you in our next blog post!