The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continue to become more popular as the field of sustainability becomes more important across every sector and industry.

It’s no surprise, then, that Georgia Tech has incorporated and promoted sustainable development and the SDGs heavily in recent years. It seems that every entity – including local or federal government, businesses, universities, even some of the largest polluters — have begun to champion the idea of sustainability. It’s easy to let the idea of sustainability become a buzzword thrown around. But it’s not, and students shouldn’t overlook the opportunity that engaging the SDGs presents, regardless of their field or interests. 

If the last eight years are indicative of decades to come, one thing is sure: sustainability will be a driving force in both the public and private sector. It’s important to note that sustainability goes beyond “going green” in the traditional sense. The emerging field encompasses all facets of a healthy planet, from adequate & healthy food for people, to decent jobs,  economic growth and more. No longer is being “environmentally conscious” or “sustainability-minded”  a function of tree huggers. Climate change and its effects are real and are being felt across the globe. Further, because of this new green wave, businesses are making their next investments with sustainability in mind, both for planet, image, and profit. Green makes green now!

Thus, anyone can engage the SDGs to better inform their work; they are not just a tool for the environmentalists. Across 17 defined goals from the UN, some aspect of virtually everyone's career or field engages with at least one of the SDGs. 

Here are a few ways you can begin to engage one or more of the SDGs right here on campus and in Atlanta:

The Serve-Learn-Sustain Office here at Georgia Tech is a beacon of sustainability and community partnerships. The office is anchored in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons and is an excellent resource for undergrad and grad students alike who are looking to incorporate sustainable practice. Its flagship program, the SLS Summer Internship Program which focuses on grassroots innovation that advances the SDGs, connects students with community partners over a 12-week long appointment that comes with a weekly seminar.

Georgia Tech is also one of the founding institutions of the United Nations University Regional Center of Expertise Greater Atlanta (RCE Greater Atlanta) – one of 180 RCEs around the globe. According to the network, “RCE Greater Atlanta is a regional, multi-stakeholder network affiliated with United Nations University that advances the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through education and training programs and projects. The network brings together universities and colleges from across the Greater Atlanta region with nonprofit, government, community, and business partners to work on collaborative projects and programs that advance the SDGs especially from an equity and justice lens,”(read more on its website).With Metro Atlanta being a top-ten metro area in the United States by population with a high concentration of widely renowned higher education institutions, the power of a network throughout Metro Atlanta cannot be understated. RCE Greater Atlanta has multiple youth programs, such as:

  • The SDG Futures Fellows – A year-long program that teaches fellows about the SDGs then puts fellows on a real-world project with program partners 
  • The UN SDG Pathway for Professional Development – Curates optional opportunities to engage for those with busy schedules but an interest in SDG related opportunities around the city
  • The Mentorship Program – Pairs mentees with experienced mentors in their respective fields who have engaged the SDGs in their work – even before the SDGs were a thing

Julie Chen, a sophomore architecture student at Georgia Tech who has been involved with the RCE, recognizes the opportunity the SDGs have to enhance her career. 

“As an architecture student, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have helped shape my career by emphasizing the importance of creating sustainable communities. Achieving the SDGs requires collaborative efforts and drive. With my degree in architecture, I hope to design spaces that foster communion and collaboration,” said Chen.

Most recently, the RCE is creating a student advisory council, inviting student organizations that advance any of the Sustainable Development Goals to come together once a month and collaborate amongst the institution, along with the respective councils from other schools in the region!

Another exciting summer opportunity for engaging with the SDGs is the new Global at Home Summer Program – “Think Global, Act Local,” taught by faculty in SLS and Modern Languages. The program champions and educates on the SDGs through classroom learning and guest lectures, global documentary film screenings with ethnic food dinners and arts-and equity-focused community engagement in Atlanta. The deadline for applying is March 31st. 

If you have an interest in the SDGs but you find yourself short on free time, don’t worry! Georgia Tech has a simple search tool - SLS Affiliated Courses - that allows you to find courses that teach the SDGs you’re interested in (look for the SDG search option). You can also search VIP courses (Vertically-Integrated Projects) by SDG.

Georgia Tech has proven its commitment to the UN SDGs by including them as a foundation of the Institute’s Strategic Plan. Students should utilize these opportunities, connections, coursework, etc. to make sure they are incorporating these into their own lives. Why? It simply makes sense -  for people, the planet, personal and professional growth, businesses, government, and society. Anywhere you look, you’ll see sustainability is no hoax nor phase; it's a new approach to living in a sustained manner, and Georgia Tech is ready to help you enter this new age that will, decidedly, improve the human condition.