Sustainability has become a buzzword in lives of many Americans. The challenge with creating programs that promote and educate on the topic sustainability is that there does not appear to be a consistent definition for the term ‘sustainable’. In the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Toolkit, the authors suggest that “sustainable development is generally thought to have three components: environment, society, and economy. The well-being of these three areas is intertwined, not separate” (McKeown, 2002, p. 8). Furthermore, McKeown contends that sustainability should be considered “to be a paradigm for thinking about a future in which environmental, societal, and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of development and improved quality of life” (2002, p. 8).
The ESD Toolkit outlines the four basic priorities of ESD, which include: improving basic education, reorienting existing education, public understanding and awareness as well as training (McKeown, 2002, p. 13). At the heart of ESD programs is the “inherent idea of implementing programs that are locally relevant and culturally appropriate” (McKeown, 2002, p. 13). The toolkit itself is structured to provide an introduction into the theoretical concepts about sustainability, implementing the four priorities of ESD and practical skills that can be applied locally to address global issues. As a health educator, what would be particularly useful are the group activities found in the toolkit designed to explain the concepts of sustainability. The activities are essentially a roadmap for introducing the overarching principles of ESD and activities to develop a program plan.
The assignment was how to customize the toolkit to make it specific for teaching sustainability a health education context. This author contends that the toolkit can be applied to many aspects of education, including but not limited to health education, public health and nutrition. The Toolkit itself has a very broad scope in the activities and lesson plans, however they can serve as an excellent framework for health education initiatives. As the global use of resources are increasing; the need for making sustainable practices the heart of all education initiatives is more urgent than ever. This concept was resounded in ESD toolkit as well as other supporting resources. The discussion then transitions into how to center sustainability at the core of health education programs.
As an example of this idea, in a review article, Fleming at al state that ecological sustainability must consistently be a part of the blueprint of all public health initiatives and interventions; specifically, all such programs must include relevant procedures to safeguard and enhance the natural and built environment (2009, p. 2034). Organizations such as the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development exist to promote ESD and create partnerships in local communities. There are various sector teams that develop...