Get to Know
                                Lesson: Sustainable Economics

                   GET TO KNOW LESSON PLAN
                           SUSTAINABLE ECONOMICS
                                                                                       Get to Know
                                                                            Lesson: Sustainable Economics

Walking the Talk
Sustainable Product Choices

Fundraising is an integral part of school communities. Students and teachers undertake activities to
enable worthy social or environmental causes to benefit local and/or global communities.

The Robert Bateman Get to Know fundraising program offers school communities the opportunity
to raise money for school programs while encouraging care for the environment, promoting
sustainable living, and supporting environmental education. Schools earn money by reselling Get
to Know fundraising products, which are designed and manufactured according to sustainable
principles, have minimal packaging, teach people about their wild neighbours, and inspire people
to experience nature regularly. All proceeds from the sales of these fundraising products go to the
school community and youth environmental education programs.

This lesson focuses on the concept of responsible purchasing using a sustainable economic
framework. Students explore where things come from and where things go to make connections
between product choices and social, economic and environmental impacts. By applying their
understanding, students develop social and environmental responsibility – as school fundraisers and
as citizens of a broader community.


•   To analyse patterns, causes and impacts from the production, consumption and disposal of
    everyday items;
•   To appreciate the ethical dimension of reducing the social and ecological impacts of
•   To appreciate the importance of changing the patterns and impacts of consumption;
•   To identify principles of sustainable consumption; and
•   To help students make connections between choices and impacts on environment, social and
    economic conditions.

Time: 60-90 minutes (plus optional field study)
The timing of this activity will depend on the length of each class period, the depth of discussions,
and the extension activities undertaken. The time estimate is based on 40-50 minute periods.

To prepare for this activity, you will need to determine which approach suits your students best.
When exploring prior knowledge, you may wish to select items that are easily accessible and allow
students to generate more questions than they have ready access to answers. Alternatively, you may
prefer to have students explore prior knowledge of items that you have ready access to student-
friendly backgrounders. That way they can compare their ideas with new information
provided on an easy-to-read page.
                                                                                         Get to Know
                                                                             Lesson: Sustainable Economics
Classroom, supplemented by a visit to a school supply cupboard, a recycling plant, landfill,
manufacturing plant, retail store or a virtual tour.


•   An item of student clothing for each small group (e.g. wool sweater, nylon jacket, cottonshirt,
    polar fleece vest) OR for 6 small groups: 2 CDs, 2 cell phones, and 2 soccer balls
•   Long strips of paper (at least 25 cm wide) for timelines and poster paper for Venn diagrams
•   Coloured markers
•   2 copies each of EPA’s Life Cycle of a Soccer Ball, Life Cycle of CDs and DVDs, and LifeCycle of a
    Cell Phone
•   1 copy each of World Watch product backgrounders

Prior Knowledge
Explore what your students already know about how products are made and what happens to
things when they are no longer needed using.

        Option A
        Have students select an item of clothing they are wearing and lead a whole class
        discussion .

        Option B
        Form small groups. Provide an item of student clothing to each group. The items can be
        identical or each group could explore items made from different materials. Have students
        discuss what they know and think they know about the item, using questions to guide their

        Option C
        Form six small groups. Provide each group with either a cell phone, CD or a soccer ball.
        Have students discuss what they know about the item, using questions to guide their

Discussion Questions
•   Where is the item made?
•   How far did it travel to get to you?
•   What is it made from?
•   What else was needed to make this item?
•   How often and for how long do you expect to use this item?
•   How much did it cost to purchase?
•   How much does that mean each use cost?
•   When you no longer need this item, where does it go?
•   What will happen to it then?
•   How is this a problem?
•   What else could be done?
                                                                                        Get to Know
                                                                              Lesson: Sustainable Economics


•   Hand out the appropriate copy of the life cycle posters to each of the groups.
•   Have students review the poster to compare their ideas with the information provided.
•   Have students create a timeline that shows the story of production, consumption, and disposal
    by including information about how much energy, water and waste was used along the way.
•   Have each group tell their story to the class.

As a class, debrief the concept of product life cycle using questions like:

•   What did you learn?
•   What was most surprising?
•   How does that relate to Environment? Money? People?

Extension: Display the timelines for another class to see. Visiting classes would walk to
threedifferent products while hosts talk about their product, from ‘cradle to grave.’

                                                                 Get to Know
                                                        Lesson: Sustainable Economics
                                                                                        Get to Know
                                                                             Lesson: Sustainable Economics

1. In small groups, have students draw three large circles to fill a page of poster paper such
   that each circle overlaps with one another and all three overlap in the middle. Add label
   ‘environment,’ ‘people’ and ‘money’ along the outside edges of the circles.

2. Hand out a different product backgrounder to each group.

3. Have students read to find good news and bad news related to either environment, people or

4. Have students discuss the five most important points and the best place to record info bit on the
   diagram. For example, a sustainable practice might fit between two areas or occupy the space
   right in the middle.

5. Have students record the key point using one colour for good news and another for bad news.

6. Have students highlight what surprised them.

7. Have groups discuss the connections between environment, people and money. Inform groups
   that when products are made with consideration of these connections, sustainable principles and
   practices are being used.

8. As a class, discuss a fundraising initiative in the school (existing or planned) and how this relates
   to selecting products that are sustainable.

9. Review students ideas about the importance of ‘walking the talk’ by selecting products
   that are in keeping with the goals of the cause that the funds are being raised for. Product

                                          CDs and DVDs





                                                                                       Get to Know
                                                                            Lesson: Sustainable Economics


Walking the Talk at School
- Have students apply their understanding of sustainable choices to a
real-life initiative in their school. Either by proposing changes to an existing one or creating a new
one for a cause that matters to them. Visit the Get to Know website, request a fundraising package
and review the products to identify what fits with the goals of their cause and propose their

Build a Weee boy
 - Ask the class to bring in a range of e-waste related products that they throw
away at home (packaging, paper, cans, mobile phones, printer cartridges, etc.) Based on the
WEEE man, have students demonstrate important messages about sustainable product choices to
others in the school community by constructing a WEEE boy.

Compare Product Pairs
- Study real-life products and form conclusions about the pros and cons
that are revealed.

Senior Elementary

                                                                                      Get to Know
                                                                           Lesson: Sustainable Economics


Sightline Institute

Center for A new America Dream
http:/ /

The Green Guide

Let’s Go Green Shopping

PrInT ‘n GO
Wallet Buddy - guiding principles for shopping

About Cotton in a Jeopardy-style format

The Cloud Institute for Sustainable Education

Do you know your stuff?

Stuff: A guide with dozens of ideas on how to teach about stuff

Values and Sustainable Development

The Story of Stuff

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at
home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fastpaced,
fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. It exposes the
connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to
create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, make you laugh, and it just may
change the way you look at all the stuff in your life – forever.
                                                                                        Get to Know
                                                                             Lesson: Sustainable Economics


Good Stuff? A behind-the-scenes guide to the things we buy

Have you ever wondered where chocolate comes from, if antibacterial soap is good for your family,
or how to recycle an old computer? If you’ve had these or other questions about the environmental
and social impacts of the products you buy and use, Good Stuff is for you. It contains many of the
tips, facts, and links you’ll need to start making more informed purchases that benefit your health
and the environment.

Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things by Ryan, John C. and A. T. Durning 1997
Deconstructs the life of coffee, newspaper, T-shirt, shoes, bike and car, computer, hamburger,
french fries and cola in a fun and accurate way, providing research and a model for student work.

Stuff follows a day in the life of a fictional, typical North American middle-class resident of Seattle.
Tracing back the layers of distribution, commerce, and production involved in everyday consumer
goods, Stuff is an engaging and fact-packed look at the people and places that are affected every
time you sip your coffee, tie your shoes, click your mouse, step on the gas, or read a book.
You’ll find that what happens around the world to support a day in the life of an average person in
the Pacific Northwest. Stuff has sold more than 40,000 copies, and is read and taught in schools
around the world. Most recently Stuff has been translated into Chinese and Korean, and has been
used by Wal-Mart to educate their buyers about product life cycles.

Green Teacher Magazine is a leading promoter of global and environmental awareness in schools
throughout North America and beyond. This quarterly publication is full of practical articles,
activities, resources, book reviews and ideas for rethinking education and classroom practice to
incorporate global and environmental education.

The Green Teacher web site
http:/ / /~greentea/
contains back issues of the magazine and abundant links to the schools and projects that have been
featured in the magazine. Subscriptions are $22 per year.



Hosted by secondary students


                                                                                       Get to Know
                                                                            Lesson: Sustainable Economics


Environmental Costs
The production of the goods and services we consume is based upon raw materials from the Earth.
For example, according to environmental economist, Paul Hawken, the goods and services
consumed each day by the average person in the USA require nearly 60 kg of raw materials to
make - over 23 tonnes per year.

The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) has traced the impact of global resource over recent years
and calculated a Living Planet Index at...
This is an index of the ‘natural wealth’ of the world’s ecosystems, and how the level of this natural
wealth has changed over time.

The 2000 Living Planet Index indicates that the Index declined by 30% from 1970 to 1995. This
means that the world has lost 30% of its natural wealth in the space of one generation.

Apart from the rapid use of natural resources this represents, increasing levels of global
consumption are degrading the environment through the generation of pollution and waste.
Hawken reports that the people of the USA generate over 20 billion tonnes (50 trillion pounds) of
waste (excluding wastewater) every year. This includes:

•   Nearly 320 million tonnes (700 billion pounds) of hazardous waste from the chemical industry.
•   Nearly 140 million tonnes (300 billion pounds) of organic and inorganic chemicals from
    manufacturing plants.
•   Nearly 13 million tonnes (28 billion pounds) of uneaten food.
•   Nearly 12 million tonnes (25 billion pounds) of carbon dioxide.
•   2.5 million tonnes (6 billion pounds) of polystyrene.
•   1.5 million tonnes (3.5 billion pounds) of carpet dumped in landfills.

Hawken concludes that for every 100 kg weight of products produced in the USA each year, at
least 3,200 kg of waste is generated.

                    Source: Hawken, P. (1997) Nature’s capitalism, Mother Jones,
                                            April, p. 44.
                                                                                 Get to Know
                                                                        Lesson: Sustainable Economics


   Do you know your stuff?
       Match the items in the left-hand column with the descriptions on the right.

         1. Car                                A It can take 700 gallons of water to

         2. Bicycle                            B The world’s second largest legal
                                                 export commodity (after oil).

         3. Cheeseburger                       C The leading killer of Americans
                                                 ages 2 to 24.

         4. Newsprint                          D The U.S. consumes 40 percent of
                                                 the world supply.

         5. Cotton                             E 120 pounds.

         6. Coffee                             F The most efficient transport
                                                 vehicle ever invented.

         7. Aluminum                           G So energy intensive it is called
                                                 “congealed electricity.”

         8. Computer Chip                      H Making it generates 4,500 times
                                                 its weight in waste.

         9. What an average American           I 10 percent of world pesticides
            consumes daily                       used on it.

   Adapted from quiz about Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things by Sightline Institute

                      Answers: 1-c, 2-f, 3-a, 4-d, 5-I, 6-b, 7-g, 8-h, 9-e

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