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What is Sustainability?

Before we discuss education for sustainability (EfS), we must first understand the phrase, sustainable development. The most commonly accepted definition of sustainable development is, “The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, et al. 1987). Our common future (Brundtland Report).

Education for sustainability takes sustainable development deeper by educating students so that they have the understanding and mindset to make decisions and live in a manner that will help maintain healthy ecosystems, vibrant economies, and equitable social systems for this and future generations. A number of schools have begun incorporating sustainability into their curriculum.

Schools Pursuing Education for Sustainability
Denver Green School (Colorado)
The Denver Green School (DGS), situated in a diverse urban community, has been recognized as a National Green Ribbon School award winner and both a "high-performing" and "high-growth" school. With the Denver Urban Gardens, one of a number of partnerships, the DGS created vegetable and flower gardens on the school grounds. Using the gardens as a learning context, teachers integrate literacy, math, and science curricula that align with Colorado state standards. Modeling a "hands-on, brains-on" approach to education, students work with members of the community to convert empty lots into thriving gardens that help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from car exhaust.

The food that is grown is used in school lunch programs and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering school expenses. Some of the produce is given to the Denver Youth Farmers’ Markets which providing healthy, inexpensive food to low-income families.

Environmental Charter High School
(Lawndale)
Located in south Los Angeles County, Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) is ranked in the top 3% of U.S. public high schools, where more than 75% are eligible for free or reduced-meals. Using an approach that emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving, students compost, make bio diesel, repair bicycles, harvest rain water, do field research, and teach local community residents how to do these things. ECHS students “learn to address and find solutions to environmental, social, economic, and cultural challenges in the local and global community.”

While many students arrive at the high school more than two years below their grade level, by 11th grade they have caught up to or surpassed their grade level. Last year, 92% of graduates were accepted to 4-year colleges. Nearly all of their students come from households below the poverty line and from families who have never attended college.

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How is your school implementing sustainability in education?

Send us a short summary of your educational initiatives along with the project website address. For inspiration, download our new resource, “10 Things KDP Members Can Do to Green Their Campuses.” Try these tips and ideas on campus or at school, then let us know how you’re doing. We’ll share your updates online!

We’ll feature your school here!
Read more about Education for Sustainability. Visit the Take Action section.
Path to Sustainable Future | What is Sustainability | About Education for Sustainability
Resources | How to Get Started | Organizations, Partners, and Schools

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