#Anatomy of Action: How to Build a Sustainable Lifestyle & Achieve the UN SDGs

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Collective Impact & Education for a More Sustainable Future

Sustainability is not a destination. It is a journey that we are all taking, whether or not we know it, like it and embrace it. As environmentalists we are constantly adopting innovative ways to live more sustainable lifestyles and to inspire others to do the same in the attempt to reduce our individual and societal ecological footprint. As environmental educators we are always looking for teaching tools that are as dynamic, creative and trend-aware as the students we’re trying to influence. The recently launched #AnatomyofAction is one of the latest developments in the sustainable living social movement.

The Anatomy of Action (AoA) aims to enable and encourage individuals to strive towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 through adopting sustainable lifestyle practices. It was developed in collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme and The UnSchool of Disruptive Design. Reminiscent of the Leave No Trace 7 Principles, the Anatomy of Action (AoA) is an easy to remember, highly impactful set of everyday actions focusing on five key areas of life: FOOD, STUFF, MOVE, MONEY & FUN. The AoA uses our hands as a mnemonic reference and constant reminder that how we live has an impact on the environment, and that our choices make that influence positive or negative.


The adoption of the AoA #EverydayActions by people across the world has the power, through collective impact, to contribute to the global achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs). The 17 SDGs were adopted in 2015 and provide a focus point for humanity to strive towards a socially just and environmentally positive future. Comprising 169 targets and 232 indicators, the SDGs can seem daunting; too big for any one person to accomplish. The AoA provides a starting point to help people across the globe live in ways that can contribute to achieving the SDGs.

In particular, the AoA focusses on SDG #12 – Sustainable Production and Consumption. By making more mindful and responsible choices in the goods and services we buy and use, we can affect demand and production of products in the global economy. The SDGs are deeply interconnected and need to be achieved collectively. By design, the AoA can be applied to many targets and to every one of the 17 goals.

There are a number of SDGs that relate directly to environmental educators. Goal 12.8 sets the following target: “By 2030 ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.” Through teaching the 15 #EverydayActions to students, we are directly contributing to that goal. By using various teaching techniques, we can encourage them to become environmental influencers by spreading the AoA through their own social networks, which can achieve even greater transformative impact.


The Anatomy of Action model is a contribution to the growing Sustainable Lifestyle (SL) social movement. It is designed to be easily shared with individuals, groups and on social media. As SL becomes more socially acceptable and oftentimes even popular, it is easy to promote the AoA to students as a way to be ahead of the social curve and to use it as a tool to gain more traction on social media.

After recently sharing the #AnatomyofAction for the first time with a group of students on a surf programme in Bali the feedback was very positive. Despite being aware of the serious an