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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Introduction to sustainability


Sustainability means being able to do the same thing, in the same way, over time. Sustainability is woven throughout our lives, so understanding how it impacts life and work is important for all of us, no matter our career paths or where we live.

We can already see changes towards a green and fair future being made by people and organisations in industries and workplaces around Australia and the world. A sustainable future is one where we can safely live on our planet Earth for a very long time.

Image attribution: j-mel on Adobe Stock

Creating systems, processes and products that minimise the negative impact humans have on the environment and our own wellbeing is a focus of sustainability. The climate crisis, waste, fast fashion, species loss, access to safe water, reducing natural disasters and preventing pollution are just some of the issues that are part of thinking about sustainability.

The United Nations (UN) is an international organisation with 193 member states where the world's nations can come together to discuss common problems and find shared solutions. The UN has, in recent years, set up working groups to develop guidelines and goals for sustainability. They call for "action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet". Individuals, organisations and governments can participate in these Sustainable Development Goals, which will be covered here. 

What's in this resource?

  1. The first section will explain the history of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  2. The second section will explore systems thinking, whichcan be used as a way of understanding and dealing with environmental problems. This includes thinking about the relationship between people, the environment and business.
  3. The third section, SDGs in your life, will give examples of sustainability in industry, at RMIT and in other parts of your life. Learn how to create a green event or about sustainable fashion and construction. This section also includes a learning activity that will help you to make your own sustainable development goal.

What you will learn:

  • what sustainability is and why is it important
  • where sustainability fits in the United Nations (UN) charter
  • what the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are and where they are used
  • what systems thinking and a circular economy are
  • how sustainability can be part of your life



United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how they were developed. You can even track their progress.

Systems thinking

Explore “systems thinking”, which is a way of looking at the complex nature of our world and how things are interconnected. This section examines the relationship between people, the environment and business, and gives an example of how to apply systems thinking to tricky problems.

Sustainable Development Goals in your life

Learn about examples of the SDGs in fashion, construction, events, creative practice and how to create your own sustainability goal.


Further learning

Sustainability 101
RMIT students can enrol in this short course that teaches contemporary approaches to sustainability, giving you a solid grounding in the fundamentals of what it means today. Discover how attitudes towards sustainability are influenced by our different worldviews and cultures, and learn how to make informed decisions to achieve sustainable outcomes.
(approx 3 hrs, online, 10 skill points)