UN initiative allows youth to look ‘cool’ while saving the planet

1 October 2008

An updated version of an initiative by two United Nations agencies, seeking to reverse current “throw-away” trends by reducing waste from discarded products such as mobile phones and outdated fashion, allows youth to stay on top of trends while also taking part in the fight against climate change.

Produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the YouthXchange Training Kit seeks to promote sustainable consumption among youth worldwide.

This year’s kit, revised from the previous 2002 version, includes a new chapter on how to balance aspirations of dressing fashionably while being aware of the impact of consumption on global warming.

Young people often try to establish their identities and seek social inclusion through what they purchase, but this exacerbates problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer.

YouthXchange, one of UNEP’s most important youth sustainable consumption-related activities, empowers young people “to make different choices in their daily lives and be actors of change,” said Gabriela Monteiro, one of the agency’s youth advisers.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner voiced hope that through their purchasing patterns, youth can influence the wider world and back the successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012, expected to be concluded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December next year.

“Young people in developed and rapidly developing economies can play a massive part in fighting climate change while being cool and keeping the planet cool, too,” he said.

The scheme, translated and adapted into 19 languages, also discusses the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development from 2005-2014.

“Buying a product, whatever it is, is never a neutral act for the environment,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “Its production, its use and the management of the waste it generates, all [have an] impact – to a greater or lesser degree – on our planet.”

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