Article by Jane, Curriculum Lead – Creative Industries and Culture
The terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ have seen increasing usage since the 1970’s and particularly in recent years, but what do they actually mean?
One of the most frequently quoted definitions is from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development Report, which states that “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland, 1987).
It is through sustainable development that we can achieve sustainability, which is built on the 3 pillars of environment, economics and (social) equity (the 3 E’s).
In 2015, all of the United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2015), which outlines a shared vision for the world. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are interconnected and which recognise the importance of a balance between the three pillars of sustainability.
The idea that we need to replenish the resources that we use is not a new one, however, as one of our history tutors, Joy Vaughan, has been exploring. In fact, sustainability has its roots in the industrial revolution and consequently, awareness of the impact that our actions, as human beings, can have on the world is deeply embedded within our history. Consequently, some of our tutors, led by Joy, have been exploring how the history behind the goals is reflected in cultural and creative media, such as SDG No.1 – No Poverty.
Joy outlined how in 1968-69, the “Household Resources and Standards of Living in the United Kingdom” survey was the first measure of poverty that didn’t just use income and began to use what people in society themselves regarded as necessities for inclusion in everyday life (Townsend, 1979). It showed that the introduction of the welfare state had not ended poverty. Tutors then explored how poverty was reflected in fashion, art, photography and music in the years 1968-1969 and how this linked to the history of sustainability. For example, in 1968, photographer, Nick Hedges, captured the lives of people living on the breadline in the UK (nickhedgesphotography.co.uk) and songs such as ‘The Streets of London’ and ‘In the Ghetto’ showed an awareness in Western countries of the extent of poverty.
As well as exploring the history of sustainability, in the creative curriculum, we have been looking at the impact of our choices and how we can make those choices more sustainable. For example, we have been exploring how we can better manage resources to reduce waste and re-purpose or re-use where possible, including implementing processes such as reclaiming clay and using glass offcuts from stained glass in jewellery making. We have a number of self-study and in centre courses based on sustainable values (see course list below) and our tutors embed sustainability across the curriculum, with learners now also having the option of an online portfolio instead of paper-based to allow for them to make sustainable choices within the classroom.
So what can you do?
- Remember the 3 R’s – Reduce, re-use, recycle
- Ask your tutors to guide you to sustainable resources
- Buy second-hand, borrow or make do
- Buy local to reduce your carbon footprint
- Mend clothes to reduce the impact of fast fashion
- Create a meal from what’s in your cupboard to reduce waste or try going meat free once a week
- Choose plants that support wildlife
If you’re interested in sustainability, try one of our related courses below:
Self-access courses (FREE):
In Centre Courses:
Brundtland, G., 1987. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. [online] Available at: < http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf > [Accessed 4 March 2022].
Townsend, P., 1979. Poverty in the United Kingdom. [e-book] London: Allen Lane and Penguin Books. Available at:< https://www.poverty.ac.uk/system/files/townsend-book-pdfs/PIUK/piuk-whole.pdf> [Accessed 4 March 2022].
United Nations, 2015. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New York: UN Publishing.