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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Importance of Education for Sustainability

I was fortunate enough to have been selected to participate in NJ Learns Keystone Year 2011, an effort by The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.  Generously paid for by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, this experience has greatly enhanced my ability and desire to affect change in our world.  I was motivated and inspired by all of the wonderful people who are making good things happen each day in the name of sustainability.  This group is not unlike the world in which we live:  full of diversity, ideas, challenges and ready to unite around common goals.  It is so powerful to feel what can be accomplished when we work together, using the best of our individual talents to add to the whole.

What is Education for Sustainability?  In the words of The Cloud Institute, "Education for Sustainability (EfS) is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend."  You can learn more about The Cloud Institute and the work they do here: .

One of my favorite parts of this experience is the access to another network of people who share my passion for sustainability.  Just as this blog has connected me to wonderful people like David who writes at .  His words always seem to inspire me to get my words out of my head and onto this page.  His most recent post is about connections and I know you will enjoy reading it!

Another connection:  Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life ( ) recently added me to her blog list.  Thank you, Beth, for this honor - I will try to live up to your example and inspiration (although when you hear about the plastic I am considering buying, it will not make you smile)!

A fellow NJ Learner recently mentioned the book Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein.  Have you read it?  I have not, but plan to.  You can read it here if you'd like: .  I listened to the first 15 minutes of a recording by the author here: and am intrigued.  It connects to something I've been thinking about at school lately....

We are getting ready for our Mother-Son dance.  The theme is a luau.  As always happens when we get ready for these events, we are looking for gifts.  Door prizes, game prizes, etc.  And, of course, our budget is very small.  We ask for local companies to donate gift certificates or baskets of goodies.  This is definitely an area that I struggle with as I have been asked to track down gifts for the boys.  We have karate class and gym gift certificates and now they are looking for physical  And they need to be 'cheap'.  I was pointed in the direction of plastic boomerangs which cost $3.33 each and little plastic cars.  Most of the things that have been purchased in the past are no doubt sitting in a landfill at this point, since they were cheap, plastic and easily-breakable.  I could easily buy those boomerangs, but I won't.  At a slightly higher price per item, I found these: .  Yes, they are still plastic.  It makes my conscience feel a little better to know that they are made in the U.S.A. from 100% recycled plastic grocery bags, but I know I could do better.  And the best would be to do without. 

I'm hoping to gain more insight into this problem and the solutions from the book above.  But I am constantly faced with the realization of how important Educating for Sustainability is in our lives.  As Einstein said, and The Cloud Institute has reinforced, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."  We need to think differently and act differently.  What new ways of thinking are you implementing in your life?


  1. Kate, I think you hit the nail on the head. It's not the question or the answer to the question as much as making EVERYONE ASK the question.

    Cooper is starting to love the story of The Lorax. I always picture you as our family Lorax. "I am Kate and I speak for the trees..." and later on in the book, I view you as the main protagonist in the story (the one who dared to ask the Onceler about the Lorax.)

    But if you have a copy of that book, go to the last passage - where the Onceler has his epiphany.


    That right there is the challenge. We (you!) need to get everyone to have their "UNLESS" epiphany. I wish you the best with it, as always, and I find it's a struggle for me. Not because I don't want the same things as you but because it's not "easy". And I'm not saying easy like I want to be lazy about it but "easy" as in "MAKE IT POSSIBLE for me, silly manufacturers and lawmakers - this is what I want my tax dollars to do." But at this point, I've not had my "UNLESS" epiphany that makes me willing to sacrifice to the extent that you do.

    I fear that, just as the original hippies never were the mainstream, neither will be the nouveau-hippies, and they (you) are exactly who we need to take over for the sake of everyone else.

  2. As I discussed earlier this week with Kate, you would be amazed at how many people (especially us baby boomers) are not educated on the subject of sustainability. If it weren't for Kate educating me, I too would be in the dark. We need to educate people in all areas of sustainability...without preaching or blaming. I do believe once we know, we will try better....I have. But again, how do we educate? Little by little, one person at a time....through our actions - through schools (starting programs for recycling, etc.). Starting the education at a young age is the answer, because, just like the technological world of today, this will stay with them forever. It will be EASY for them...because it was learned from young. So let's start there. It takes patience and time. But each one of us can teach in our own ways and do our part for this precious earth.