How will the world approach sustainability and climate change in the year ahead?
What’s in store for 2021? After a year marred by pandemics, Black Lives Matter protests, and global climate disasters on a scale not seen before, we can only hope that the year to come will be better. A lot better. How will industries get creative around these issues? How will climate change and sustainability help bridge gaps where we need monumental change?
These are our top trend predictions for the coming year. Some carry-over from 2020. Some, from pre-pandemic times. But some build out entirely new ways of connecting our global family and bringing healthy, sustainable options to the table. Quite literally.
2021 Climate Trend Predictions
1. Paramount Leadership
Republican? Democrat? Labour Party? It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is in 2021. Everyone needs to be all-in for the climate. With landmark shifts happening, like the UK’s recent pledge to reduce emissions, we can expect more non-partisan legislative victories for the planet.
2. Global Conservation Efforts
As the climate crises continue to take their toll on some of our most sacred natural resources, expect this next year to see more protected land — or water. These efforts are critical to Indigenous peoples as well as the animals threatened by a rapidly warming planet. Expect more efforts like the Atlantic Ocean’s Tristan da Cunha, now the fourth largest protected marine environment in the world. And more creative ways to protect land and inspire communities to take more interest in their local resources.
3. Elevation of At-Risk Community Issues
Climate change is hitting low-income communities at a faster and more devastating pace than other areas. With billions of people at risk for flooding, hurricanes, fire, and other natural disasters, these frontline communities will become a focus for good. Expect to see more efforts like The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation’s work to bring trees to some of the world’s most impoverished and at-risk regions. Their efforts improve air quality, offer shelter, shade, and food for decades to come.
4. Increase in Sustainable Food Options
The momentum behind vegan meat, milk, and eggs is increasing. Consumers want more sustainable and ethical food than ever. This is why companies like Beyond Meat, are gaining in popularity. It’s why McDonald’s is now trialing vegan burgers, and why butchers are swapping meat from animals with meat from plants. Next year will also see the first-ever slaughter-free lab-grown meat hit the market in Singapore. A sure sign of the times.
Upleveled food waste, locally grown, small-batch operations, and organically-grown will all get boosts, too. Expect supermarkets to devote more shelf space to healthier, more sustainable options in the coming months.
5. Eco Textiles in Cars, Furniture
2020 saw a slew of cars embrace vegan leather and interiors, and 2021 will see even more. Not only will they embrace cruelty-free options that are better for the planet, but they’ll also move toward upcycled and recycled materials, too. Things like used car parts, ocean trash, and plastic bottles are now the new normal in textile production. You’ll see all manner of this represented in furniture, too. From lux upcycled sofas to eco bedding, tables, and much, much more. Home furnishings giant IKEA is constantly on the prowl for upping its sustainability score and you can expect it to lead the way on this in the new year.
6. Youth Activation
Just because Greta’s teen years are soon to be behind her doesn’t mean the youth climate movement is showing any sign of slowing down. In fact, you can credit the pandemic with shining a spotlight on, well, everything. Millennials and Gen-Z may have made strides, but Generation Alpha is even more activated and motivated than ever. They fully understand the impact our choices have on the planet. And watching 2020 be ravaged by more natural disasters than ever before from their quarantined, isolated distance-learning view of the world, is impetus like no other.
7. Get Ready for the Eco Art
Life imitates art, as the saying goes. And we’re already starting to see the picture of a better future come to light. Artists including Mark Bradford, Olafur Eliasson, Banksy, and Mary Mattingly have all incorporated climate messages — whether that’s upcycled materials like Bradford uses or Eliasson’s Earth Day message earlier this year. “On Earth Day,” said Eliasson in a press release, “I want to advocate—as on any other day—that we recognise these various perspectives and, together, celebrate their coexistence.”
Fair Trade Month celebrated women and BIPOC farm workers in a mural series, and slews of other artists took the streets a la Banksy-style. And Miami’s Art Basel, muted as it is by the pandemic, is also tackling climate change. These trends will continue and then some. Expect more climate messages in film and television, too.
8. Runway-Ready Sustainable Fashion
Fashion is forever reinventing itself. And while 2020 may have been the year of the sweatsuit, expect good things on the eco front from the world’s top designers in 2021. COVID outbreaks at the world’s largest mink farms exposed the cruel industry’s uselessness in the future of fashion. Even animal rights organization PETA called off its fur campaigns after declaring the industry dead. Leading eco designers like Stella McCartney continue to lead the way, but there’s room for everyone at the sustainable closet. With so many vegan leather options and organic pesticide-free fabrics, the industry is about to boom in a major, major way.
9. Increased Corporate Initiatives
Love them or hate them, corporations are people, too (legally, anyway). And while profits are their main motivations, they can, and often are, forces for good. Or, at least, forces for better than the way things were. Even Internet villain Jeff Bezos took some notable initiatives with Amazon, like employing a new green labeling system. IKEA continues to uplevel its commitments, and corporations are going greener than ever to satisfy consumer and shareholder demands. Will they put the planet before profits? Not likely in 2021, but they’ll be closer than ever.
10. Think Globally, Act Locally
Remember that catch-phrase? It’s been around for ages. But now it’s more relevant as 2020 saw us doing both to fight the pandemic. And 2021 will see that ethos continue. We can no longer afford to separate ourselves from our communities — near or far. But the attitude won’t just be COVID-related. Expect more local pride in fighting climate action right in our own backyards by making sure we protect those most vulnerable, enact policies to ensure a healthier future, and do our best right in our own backyards.