Monday, 18 January 2021

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Young talents helping to achieve sustainable development goals

 SDG hike. © Aleksander Myklebust, NORAD (flickr, creative commons)

UNLEASH, one of the world’s leading labs and platforms for innovative, implementable and scalable solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was present in Aarhus, Denmark, this summer to put SDG solution front and centre.

Throughout the Nordic countries, the sustainable development goals have attracted more attention than usual this year, namely in the form of festivals – and even a sustainable walk in the woods. The first Agenda 2030 event was held in Denmark from 13 to 21 August, when the annual UNLEASH event took place in Aarhus. More than 1,000 young talents from 129 countries gathered for 9 days together, to come up with innovative solutions for the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG-talents participated in happenings with inspirational speakers, case challenges with innovative companies, and worked on their own ideas in small groups at 10 Danish Folk High Schools. The process culminated in an award show in Aarhus, where each team of talents presented a draft of an SDG solution.

Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), participated in the festival’s grand finale, where he stressed the importance of involving young people in the work of the UN.

“I congratulate you on your work, and encourage you to take your initiatives forward from here”, he said. “Rest assured that we will continue working with you and with other young people around the world, to develop innovative solutions to our shared global challenges, and to put those ideas into practice.“

By involving several partners from civil society, UN agencies, local and international companies, the ambitious vision of UNLEASH is that many of the ideas will be picked up and implemented years to come.

Some ideas stood out in particular during the award show, such as the winners of the award “most impact potential”, who came up with a solution related to SDG 12, responsible production and consumption. The team developed a reusable smart pallet cover to replace plastic shrink wrap.

Shrink wrap is one of the largest hidden pollutants in the world, and the team estimated that each cover will result in a massive reduction of plastic materials into landfills, save oil consumption, and cut CO2 emissions.

“Our reusable pallet cover, to replace traditional plastic shrink wrap, reduces plastic waste by 50%, petroleum use by 95%, and CO2 emissions by 80%. In the US alone, each year this would save 40 million pounds of plastic, 1 billion pounds of petroleum for manufacturing, and 450M kg of CO2”, says Kevin Lee of SmartWrap.

UNLEASH is intended as a recurring, annual event, held in a new city every summer until the summer of 2030 when New York will host the event. Next year UNLEASH will head to California.


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