As Byker and Sadula (2022) found in their article for .ed, leadership in the form of global citizenship education provides a pathway for taking action on the United Nations (2015) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Byker and Sadula (2022) connected educational leadership and global citizenship education to the Critical Cosmopolitan Theoretical Framework (Byker, 2013; 2016, 2019). Critical Cosmopolitan Theoretical Framework  provides a lens for preparing leaders who are equipped to take action to help rewrite the world (Byker & Putman, 2019; Freire, 1970; Putman & Byker, 2020). In this current article, we describe and report on creating a university student club called The Sustainable Development Goals Club or The SDG Club, for short. We elucidate how The SDG Club has become a beacon of student leadership for taking action — locally — on the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Developing and Leading the SDG Club

The SDG Club emerged as the brainchild of the lead author, who participated in the Millennium Fellowship led by the United Nations in the fall of 2020. The Millennium Fellowship selects campuses worldwide to create projects addressing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and to put those projects into action for a semester. Before this Millennium Fellowship, the lead author struggled with something that so many young people can relate to, which is the question: What difference can I make on a global scale when I am only one person? The lead author of this article wanted to make a difference but did not know exactly where to start. Feelings of: I am only one person. What could I possibly accomplish? Yet, the impact of the Millennium Fellowship was pivotal in three specific ways. 1) It provided a network of passionate peers who shared concerns about the globe and the desire to take action. 2) It sheds light on how few university students know about the SDGs. 3) And it empowered and equipped the participants with the knowledge and skill that they could make a difference. From the Millennium Fellowship experience, the lead author was determined to create a student organization dedicated to educating about the SDGs and taking action on these goals locally. So in March of 2021, The SDG Club was born at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the United States of America.

Fostering Local Leadership through SDG Related Projects

It is amazing to witness what a few people can accomplish in just a few months. The SDG Club grew from one member to six members, to now has over 30 engaged members and a faculty advisor. The SDG Club’s mission is to be a place for passionate people to come together and make an impact in their community for a better and more sustainable future. The SDG Club is project-oriented, and in our article, we describe four of these student-led projects and their basis within the SDGs.

One project is called The Pantry Project, which addresses SDG #2: Zero Hunger. This project has supported the university’s food pantry by creating a program where students are trained to become Pantry Ambassadors who provide accessible, educational information about the student food pantry for the campus community and spread awareness and destigmatize the ideas around food insecurity and utilize a pantry. This project is also working towards increasing the visibility of the pantry through much-needed signage around campus and accessible bus transportation to the pantry. 

Another project is called Zero Waste, connected to SDG #12: Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG #13: Climate Action. The Zero Waste project hopes to tackle our community’s excessive and unnecessary waste and ensure the proper structures are in place to handle waste through education and advocacy for policy changes. 

The third project is the Tent City project, which relates to SDG #1: No Poverty. This project is focused on addressing homelessness in Charlotte by partnering with local non-profits to create long-term solutions, spread awareness and education about housing insecurity, and advocate for policy changes. These first three projects are worked on during the fall and spring semesters. 

The final project we want to highlight is the Crayon Project, connected to SDG #4: Quality Education and SDG #13: Climate Action. It is the project the club focuses on over the summer. The SDG Club has partnered with 40 local restaurants to collect their single-use, soon-to-be-thrown-out crayons for the past two summers. The collected crayons were then separated by color, peeled from their paper wrappers, melted down, and molded into new, thicker crayons that are easier for small children to hold on to and use. SDG Club members donated these recycled crayons to kindergarten classes at two local elementary schools. They included seed paper repurposed from the crayon wrappers to plant and a coloring sheet about the SDGs to color. The SDG Club members introduced and taught the young children about the Sustainable Development Goals. Teaching children about the SDGs at a young age can bring hope for a more sustainable future! 


The SDG Club started from just a seed of an idea and, within two years, is inspiring participants to drive change and help make the university and surrounding community more aware and healthier. A wholly sustainable world may seem like a large and daunting concept to realize, but many such small yet committed groups, like The SDG Club, can accelerate our pathway towards realizing Sustainable Development Goals through purposeful and collaborative action. The SDG Club exemplifies the idea of fostering leadership in education. All progress made in the club has been driven and accomplished by student leaders: from the club’s creation, to brainstorming and executing the projects, to the impact the club is making on the community. This is important because leadership is integral to the progress of the SDGs. Students can bring modernized, fresh, and unfettered solutions to local environmental, social, and economic problems through the lens of the SDGs while also connecting and collaborating with global partners. We are  committed to being educational and civic leaders for the SDGs. This work is so meaningful to us because we are able to use  the SDGs as a guideline to make real local changes within our community and be a part of the solution for a better tomorrow.

A Case on How Educational Leadership can Inspire Student Leadership and Actions for Sustainable Development

Realizing the impact on local and global scales that educational leadership can drive through enabling and fostering student leadership.

A Case on How Educational Leadership can Inspire Student Leadership and Actions for Sustainable Development

A wholly sustainable world may seem like a large and daunting concept to realize, but many small yet committed groups can accelerate our pathway towards realizing Sustainable Development Goals through purposeful and collaborative action.

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Byker, E.J. (2016). Developing global citizenship consciousness: case studies of critical cosmopolitan theory. Journal of Research in Curriculum and Instruction, 20(3), 264-275.

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