Sustainable development is a crucial issue in contemporary society. Still, it is essential to emphasize that, even though this is its origin, its meaning is not only related to environmental damage and problems. 

The idea of sustainability highlights alternatives for tackling environmental degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss by connecting these ecological issues to others of a social scope such as economy, equity, and societies’ functioning.

Thus, questioning how we relate to nature is also examining how we, as a society, live, work, produce and consume - perhaps one of the most alarming elements of our existence.

Consumer culture is one of the central axes of the globalized and developed world. The globalization process proposes an intense production and disposal of product pace, often made inappropriately, resulting in a series of  cultural, economic and social problems.

This scenario is widely discussed and contested by the concept of sustainable development. The approach suggests that products should be more durable, contributing to the deceleration of replacement cycles, avoiding premature product disposal, decreasing  natural resources exploitation, and establishing more humanized work dynamics.

So as to protect the environment and establish healthy standards of human interaction, these discussions led to the search for new sources of energy, alternatives for work and consumption relations, and modern market dynamics.

That’s when art becomes of great interest to the fight for sustainable development. In countless ways, art can assist in disseminating knowledge and presenting alternatives to solve concrete problems.

Due to its ability to appeal to perception, sensitivity, and expression, art has the power to sensitize and provide an aesthetic experience, conveying emotions or ideals. It can criticize or propagate lifestyles, alert to urgent demands, and generate awareness based on reflections.

People can also find in art a tool for social transformation. Its playful and accessible language allows us to establish more fluid dialogues with the communities and its work techniques emerge as alternatives to improve our production and consumption dynamics.

The scope of art's impact on building a more sustainable world is even broader when we understand how the environmental, cultural, social, and economic spheres are interconnected. Have you heard of the term Social Sustainability?

What is social sustainability?

Social Sustainability refers to a set of actions that aim to improve the population's quality of life. These actions must reduce social inequalities, expand rights, and guarantee access to services that allow people full access to their civil rights.

Socially sustainable actions are not only crucial for the least favored people. When put into practice, they can improve the quality of life of the entire population.

Some practical examples of Social Sustainability actions are reducing violence in proportion to the expansion of an efficient public education system or implementing free educational and social projects.

This approach defends practices such as investing in public education, implementing programs aimed at social inclusion, and professionally qualifying young people to achieve sustainability and equality goals. Among other demands, it also fights for government investments in basic sanitation and expansion of democratic participation in the definition of actions that aim to improve people's quality of life.

It is important to stress that social causes and environments are codependent. A population with a good cultural and educational level respects the environment more, contributing to the planet’s sustainable development. And what better way to provide efficient educational and cultural experience than art?

The use of art in the fight for environmental issues

Art educates, informs, and entertains. But when it comes to your relationship with the environment, your potential goes even further. In this combination with nature, art plays a role in questioning actions and demanding changes in behavior.

In this context, we can insert the importance of art as another tool for environmental activism. When confronting the public with unpleasant information, often difficult to digest, converted into an aesthetic experience, awareness raises the rational barriers and really touches people.

Not that the numbers of the destructive impact of human activity on the environment are not alarming enough. But statistics are easier to ignore than images and sensations. When art represents society's troubled relationship with nature, the urgency for action is explicit.

But that is not all. Art's most important role in the fight for environmental causes came when artists realized they could use their talent to solve some of these problems. Rethinking the use of raw materials and exhibition structures and making their works available, artists like Jaime Prades and Andy Goldsworthy have left their mark on building a more sustainable world.

Living and working in São Paulo since 1975, Jaime Prades is a pioneer in Brazilian urban art. In the 1980s, he joined the collective TUPINÃODÁ, a group seen today as a historical reference for contemporary artistic actions in urban public spaces. Prades builds sculptures that evoke trees, using scraps of wood that he collects in buckets and on the street.

His work is grouped into five main series: Machines, Totems, Absurd, Shamanic, and Human Nature. These sets organize the artist’s central themes: dehumanization, ancestry; the joy; the sacred; the materialistic civilizing crisis.

His works of art references issues such as the limits between public and private spaces, the abandonment and mischaracterization of communities, and the urban areas as a living territory.

Andy Goldsworthy is a British photographer, sculptor, and environmentalist known for creating beautiful outdoor sculptures from natural materials, including petals, leaves, snow, ice, stones, and branches.

One of his most famous artworks is River Stone, a snake-shaper sculpture, built from 128 tons of sandstones recovered from the rubble of buildings in San Francisco, brought down by earthquakes in 1906 and 1989.

Rives Stone is one of Goldworthy’s few permanent pieces. It can be seen at Stanford University.

Are you already feeling inspired to make a change? So here’s your chance to get creative with some tips on how to use art on your journey to sustainability we’ve prepared for you.

How can you use art to be sustainable?

Building a sustainable world depends on everyone. Each one of us must do our part and encourage others to do the same. Mobilization is a crucial factor in making these proposals effective.

The sky's the limit when it comes to sustainability, and practicing it should not be hard. Believe us, it can be really fun. Check out these ideas on how you can use art in your daily life to be more sustainable.

First, you can consider giving your garbage a different purpose. We often discard materials that could still be given fair use with a touch of creativity. Have you heard of upcycling?

This practice, increasingly common in art and fashion, consists of reusing objects to create new items. Through design, these objects can acquire completely different functions. Pallets can become furniture, or bottles can become lamps, for example. Just think about something you would still like to have, and upcycling will surely help you build it from something you may already have and no longer use.

Another exciting alternative to mobilize your community in building a more sustainable mentality is to communicate through artistic languages ​​such as theater, music, dance, literature, and cinema. It is very common for people to shy away from serious conversations, so entertaining resources can bring people closer to the debate you propose and facilitate understanding this relevant subject.

Finally, whenever possible, buy products produced by local artisans. When buying from local producers, the money spent locally helps the regional economy. This practice is also more sustainable since smaller-scale productions have less impact on the environment and generate a sense of community that can bring people together to change realities.

Conclusion

The art of this century has been expanding beyond issues related to aesthetics, revealing itself as a central object of the expressions of contemporary society and acting as a reflection of evolution.

From art, we can express our opinions, draw attention to relevant issues, mobilize our peers in the fight for change, and act actively in the process of social and environmental change. With art, we have in our own hands, the power to determine the paths of history.

Art also allows us to use its tools to build a more sustainable world in small day-to-day practices. What can you still do for the environment today?