In a developing world of limited resources but unlimited knowledge, schools across the globe play an important role in preparing students to meet the sustainability challenges of the future. Sustainability education is just as it sounds – it’s learning that “encourages a sense of personal responsibility for the environment, fosters a commitment to sustainable living, and promotes an enduring dedication to environmental stewardship” (University of Toronto). The scope of “sustainability” is usually described as including three spheres: social, environmental, and economic. Environmental aspects of sustainability include natural resource use, environmental management, and pollution prevention. Social aspects of sustainability include standard of living, education, community, and equal opportunity, whereas economic aspects include profit, cost savings, economic growth, and research and development.
In today’s ever-changing climate, our society needs environmental innovation and a sustainability focus encompassing these three spheres more than ever before. According to Spark-Y, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, who’s mission resides in “empowering youth through hands-on education rooted in sustainability and entrepreneurship,” sustainability education is important in several different ways. It teaches youth the interdependence between humans and the environment and how humanity and nature are “inextricably intertwined.” In order to prevent further damage to our ecosystem, it is of utmost importance to show students that there is a connection, although our modern society too often drifts away from nature. A valuable sustainability education also shows the balance between the environment and our society and teaches students how sustainability not only impacts ecosystems, but affects the economy as well. Several studies have shown that Millennial and Generation Z consumers are more willing to buy environmentally-friendly products, and by helping our current youth to understand “sustainable entrepreneurial and agricultural practices,” teachers, parents, and other educators can form the upcoming generation to be even more environmentally sound and “eco-actionable.”
In addition, early green education can help children develop life-long sustainable life skills. Not only will kids possibly learn how to grow their own food, conserve energy, and choose eco-friendly products, but it might have a great impact on their life pathways as well. Students who choose to pursue green majors will pursue careers as biologists, environmentalists, or other types of scientists. An early sustainable education will help youth prepare for successful careers that are integral in transitioning to a cleaner future. Today’s planet will not be the same decades from now, a study conducted by NASA shows. According to Spark-Y, “Predictions don’t bode well, but education can both prepare students for future changes and give them the tools to prevent further damage.”
Sustainability education “empowers learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes to address the interconnected global challenges we face, such as climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, poverty, and inequality” (UNESCO). By giving the younger generation a head start with early sustainable education, we are helping them prepare for successful green careers that are an integral part in transitioning to a cleaner future.
Unesco. (1970, January 1). Education for Sustainable Development. UNESCO. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-sustainable-development
Mcdaniel, R. (1970, May 6). Teaching sustainability. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-sustainability/
Robinson, E. (2019, November 19). Why sustainable education is crucial for the next generation - spark-y. Spark. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://www.spark-y.org/blog/2019/11/18/why-sustainable-education-is-crucial-for-the-next-generation
NASA. (2021, August 26). The effects of climate change. NASA. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/
About spark-y - spark-y. Spark. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://www.spark-y.org/about-sparky
Definitions of ese traditions. ESE :: Definitions :: Environmental and Sustainability Education. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/ese/About/Definitions.html