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The world economy has grown significantly during the past decade. An increasing number of households in developing economies are joining the consuming class; experts estimate 2-3 billion additional middle-class consumers will be added by 2050 (UNEP, 2017). Due to growing individual prosperity, people are consuming more than ever before. However, the current path of consumption and resource use is not sustainable. In fact, the United Nations has warned that “the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles in 2050.”

Individual consumption choices collectively have a large impact on the use of natural resources and the production of waste and pollution. To mitigate the negative impacts of consumption on the environment, people must shift their consuming patterns towards better sustainability. These changes include reducing food waste, choosing energy efficient products, and considering water resources. In addition, awareness-raising and education on sustainable lifestyles are necessary for consumers to make sustainable choices.

Relevance to the SDGs

Consumption is incorporated in the Sustainable Development Goal 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This goal emphasises a more efficient use of natural resources (12.2), the reduction of food waste (12.3), and greater awareness for sustainable lifestyles (12.8).

SDG 12.2
Natural Resouces
      SDG 12.3   
   Food Waste   
      SDG 12.8   

Case Studies

Nordic Council of Ministers, Arbejdsgruppen for Holdbar Konsumtion og Produktion (HKP)
Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), Green Growth Best Practice (GGBP)

Learning Products

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), The Open University
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)
United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), One Planet, International Resource Panel (IRP)


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Green Growth National Documents

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)
European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), Switch Africa Green
Korea Environment Institute (KEI)