Advancing Education for Sustainable Consumption and Sustainable Lifestyle Practices in China

Conference Proceeding

In late October 2014, over thirty participants met for a two day workshop on Advancing Education for Sustainable Consumption (ESC) and Sustainable Lifestyles Practices in China. The workshop was organised in cooperation between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan and the Environmental Education Center at Beijing Normal University (EEC-BNU). The participants included relevant government officers, practitioners and civil society members, and experts in ESC/SL from research universities and international organisations including UNESCO and UNEP. The workshop allowed the opportunity to investigate the current status of policies and practices on ESC as well as emerging trends in Sustainable Lifestyle practices in China. Opportunities and strategies for advancing education for sustainable consumption and sustainable lifestyles were elaborated, and it was discussed how initiatives in China may strengthen links to relevant international programmes.

The participants placed strong emphasis on education and learning as powerful mechanisms for influencing transitions towards sustainable consumption and sustainable lifestyle practices. The Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (the follow up to the UN Decade of ESD) and the Sustainable Lifestyle and Education programme under the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP on SCP) were highlighted as the two most important international programmes to align ESC and ESL initiatives with, but participants also highlighted the significant role education will playing in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda. Furthermore, ESC and ESL were recognised as important compliments to the larger framing concept of ESD because of their nature of relating sustainability concepts to real-world, daily life practices through hands-on, experiential education.

International experts shared a comparison of ESC practices from across East Asia, and the UNEP pilot project to develop National ESC Guidelines for Indonesia was noted as an especially important milestone in the region. While a number of presentations by Chinese experts shared the country’s experiences in ESC across formal education, higher education, teacher training, non-formal and community-based education, as well as government policy. Numerous good practices already existing in the country were identified, thus reflected that one of the most urgent challenges is the scaling up and widespread replication of these initiatives. An additional important area of consideration was how the interdisciplinary topics of sustainability can be addressed across the disciplinary structure of current education systems, and although this was a difficult topic there was some positive reflections that there may opportunities to work towards “matrix institutions” where schools remain structured around disciplinary departments and required subject-based competencies, but where the teaching of sustainability topics and themes are run as cross-cutting lessons across the various disciplines.

Three working groups discussed how Education for Sustainable Lifestyles could be advanced individually in formal education (i.e. primary and secondary schools), in higher education (especially for teacher training), and in non-formal/community based education. In each case, these groups discussed holistic and integrated approaches to ESL. Through there impressive efforts, each group designed a pilot project proposal on how ESL could be strengthened and mainstreamed in their respective sector.