• Written by Ellen Heyting, PhD student in Education and Head of Years 11 and 12, Monash University
Year 7 students at the International School of Helsinki, Finland, doing a sustainable development exercise with the author (top left) and fellow teacher Rachael Thrash. Katja Lehtonen, Author provided

It started as a New Year’s resolution driven by guilt and a touch of sibling rivalry – but by the end of the year, it taught me valuable lessons as a teacher, including about the benefits of failure.

At Christmas dinner 2018, my sister declared she would buy nothing for a year. After living in Bangladesh for two years, she had seen how the world’s fashion industry was wreaking havoc on the country’s people and environment.

I decided to follow her lead. As an Australian living in Finland, I still can’t imagine going a year without a flight home to see family. So buying nothing (apart from groceries) would do something to offset all those carbon-costly air miles.

I’m also a high school humanities teacher, and realised what I was learning while trying to buy nothing could prove useful in a classroom.

Modelling behaviour

The effectiveness of “modelling” – demonstrating a behaviour, which is then observed and imitated by someone else – as a teaching strategy has long been known in education literature. There is recent evidence to suggest modelling is an effective strategy in education for sustainable development too.

Given this research, I thought modelling sustainable and ethical decision-making while teaching could prompt some interesting discussions, without needing to preach to my students.

This is known as education for sustainable development 1 (ESD1), where the goal is to raise awareness and change students’ behaviours. ESD1 has also been called instrumental ESD. It’s widely used in teacher training courses and school curricula around the world. It involves encouraging students to learn how their behaviours impact the environment, and what behaviours they could substitute or modify to reduce their ecological footprint.

However, some researchers argue this type of education for sustainable development is not enough, and advocate also including emancipatory education for sustainable development, or ESD2. Its goal is to build students’ capacity in more innovative, critical thinking about sustainable development.


Read more: Involving kids in making schools sustainable spreads the message beyond the classroom


How I applied modelling in my classroom

As I began my year of buying nothing, I was about to start teaching Year 7 students a unit called “Progress: At What Cost?”. It examines the parallels between the first industrial revolution – a time of extraordinary change, but also labour exploitation, colonisation and huge increases in pollution – and the challenges from progress today, including from climate change, structural inequalities and the technological revolution.

Year 7 International School of Helsinki students pitching ideas at their innovation fair. Author provided

A combination of humanities, English, science and design, the unit culminates with an innovation fair. The students choose one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to solve, and at the fair, students, teachers and parents walk around with $1000 in pretend “seed money” to “invest” with the students whose solutions they like best.

Students trying to win ‘investment’ for their ideas at the innovation fair. Author provided

I’ve come to see these two strands of education for sustainable development as complementary. The first, more concrete ESD1 – learning about the global supply chain, our ecological footprints and low-carbon alternatives – allows students to see the impact of their actions today. ESD2 encourages students to imagine the challenges they might face in future, as well as new solutions.


Read more: Climate explained: why some people still think climate change isn't real


My failures produced the best lessons

If I think about what improved in my classroom because of my new year’s resolution, the biggest gains in my students’ and my own thinking came from discussing my failures.

I didn’t make it the whole year without buying anything. I bought four things: food containers so I could avoid plastic wrap, new running shoes when my old ones began falling apart, a secondhand bike after mine was stolen and a secondhand phone when mine died in a storm.

I went about a week without a phone. It turned out I was as addicted to it as the teenagers in my class. This sparked a conversation about smart phones, screen-time and social media addiction as added costs of progress, and a class challenge to go tech-free for 24 hours. Two students out of the 36 in my class made it. I didn’t.

I decided to buy a secondhand “new” phone. I talked to my students about my checklist of sustainable consumption questions, which helped me buy almost nothing all year:

  1. Could I go without it? (No, as it turned out with my phone: I am an addict.)
  2. Could I repair what I had? (I tried drying my old phone out in a bag of rice for two days, but it didn’t work.)
  3. Could I buy a secondhand one? (Yes! I got one from Swappie.)

What I saved and learned

As my year of buying almost nothing in 2019 came to a close, I had no motivation to hit the post-holiday sales. I’d also saved at least few thousand dollars, which instead went towards paying off my mortgage and more meals out with friends.

At the beginning of this new school year, I don’t pretend to have all the answers about living sustainably. But as a consumer and as a teacher, there’s a lot I can do. I can support my students’ activism, including if they choose to join a Fridays for future school strike for the climate. I can support – and challenge – their critical reasoning capacity in our classrooms the rest of the week. Each of us can make a difference – and we can all start by practising what we preach.

Ellen Heyting consults to InspireCitizens.org and CultivatingConnectionsThatMatter.org

Authors: Ellen Heyting, PhD student in Education and Head of Years 11 and 12, Monash University

Read more http://theconversation.com/how-a-year-of-trying-to-buy-nothing-made-me-a-smarter-shopper-and-a-better-teacher-128624

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COSMETIC SURGERIES

Science has made breakthroughs in numerous fields and achieved milestones that no one thought was possible before. These achievements are not limited to saving lives using advanced medical procedure...

News Company - avatar News Company

Is Brisbane Property Market A Good Place to Invest?

Investing in real estate can be a very profitable venture, but one must approach such a decision with care. As any businessperson knows, one very important factor when it comes to selecting property...

Himanshu Agarwal - avatar Himanshu Agarwal

Last summer's fish carnage sparked public outrage. Here's what has happened since

Graeme McCrabb/AAPAs this summer draws to a close, it marks just over a year since successive fish death events at Menindee in Lower Darling River made global headlines. Two independent investigatio...

Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University - avatar Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University

It's now a matter of when, not if, for Australia. This is how we're preparing for a jump in coronavirus cases

ShutterstockWhile countries around the globe have been taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it has now been reported in 37 countries outs...

Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity - avatar Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Many Scots want independence from the United Kingdom. How might that play out in a post-Brexit world?

AAP/EPA/Robert PerryOf the many issues thrown up by Brexit, one of the most pressing is the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom. Brexit was in large measure a revolt by a certain section of ...

Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol - avatar Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol

Vital Signs: a 3-point plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050

ShutterstockEvery January Larry Fink, the head of the world’s largest funds manager, BlackRock, sends a letter to the chief executives of major public companies. This year’s letter focu...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Requiring firms to only sell financial products we can use is good, but not enough

ShutterstockThe government’s financial system inquiry, on which I sat, reported five years ago. It recommended that the creators of financial products be subject to a design and distribution o...

Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne - avatar Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne

Friday essay: a real life experiment illuminates the future of books and reading

Books are always transforming. The book we hold today has arrived through a number of materials (clay, papyrus, parchment, paper, pixels) and forms (tablet, scroll, codex, kindle). The book can be a...

Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University - avatar Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University

Angus Taylor sets down 'markers' to measure success of government's technology roadmap

The government would be looking for the private sector to put in four or five times as much as it invests in research and development of particular technologies to reduce emissions, Energy Minister An...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company