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February 20, 2005



Why don't you use the classic definition, which introduced the concept into our world? I think it suffices in depth and scope.

Namely the definition used in the famous Brundtland Report (1987) which defines sustainability as "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs."

Joseph Willemssen

You could have them do a thought exercise. Ask them to imagine that after they die, they will be reincarnated over and over again here on Earth. Then ask them how they want life to be and what they will do to make it so.


Have the students conduct a survey of their energy usage. A guide or energy usage chart of electricity and fossil fuel emissions from motor vehicles they use would help keep a consistent standard or average.

Everything from TV, phone, laptop, fridge, lighting, gas, heating etcetera would be included.

Than have the solutions side where they might use less water in bathroom and ride to shops etcetera. Install sky lights and solar panels.

Dicuss the energy savings.

The other side of consumption would be environmental issues such as old growth forest (logging, wood chips, solid timber furniiture) being cut down to even make certain brands of computer printing paper.

Food choices also play a part in the ecological systems. Certain species of animals (fish generally) are over consumed and are becoming extinct.


Another lesson idea:

Have the teacher bring in five items to class... some possibilities could be a book, bottled water, a laptop, an article of clothing, etc. The class is then split into five groups, each receiving one of the items.

Each group is asked to identify the complete lifecycle of the item. This would include where and how its raw materials came from, how it was assembled, how it was transported, how it was marketed and sold, and what will happen to it when its life is over.

Finally, the group has to take each part of the lifecycle and identify a more sustainable way to do it. For example, using corn-based plastics instead of petroleum, using a solar powered factory, keeping the product sold locally, and making sure it is recycled. After this, students can present their findings.

This exercise should help students identify how much actually goes into every product we see, no matter how simple. It also highlights the many parts of the product lifecycle that have potential to be more sustainable.


Eric Corey Freed

I have given this lecture! I have two approaches:

1. Pick 10 common materials and walk the students through the lifecycle of each, asking:
a. where does it come from?
b. what are the by-products of it's production?
c. how is it delivered/installed/maintained?
d. how healthy is it?
e. what do we do with it when we are done with it?

2. Have the students map their lives and include ALL of the inputs and outputs (this is food, waste, air, carbon dioxide, etc.). Then ask them to take RESPONSIBILITY for what goes in and what goes out. How do you manage the damaging outputs?

I do this with my students in Sustainable Design 101.


Joseph Willemssen

Okay - who won?

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