Sustainability in teaching – it’s not just about the environment

As one of Macquarie University’s core values, sustainability encourages staff and students alike to be mindful and intentional in their learning, considering the implications of both action and thought, and focusing on their role in moving towards a sustainable future. But what does sustainability actually mean, and what does it look like for our students?


[S]ustainability . . .  is a concept, a goal, and a strategy. The concept addresses the need for balance between society, environment and economy, both now and into the future. The goal is to achieve an ecologically and socially just world within the means of nature. The process or strategy involves understanding how we move towards this sustainable future, and as an educational institution, what our specific role is in this process. Macquarie University Education for Sustainability website.

During Learning and Teaching Week 2015, Director Leanne Denby and Sustainabilty Project Manager Sara Rickards explained not only the importance of “Education for Sustainability” at Macquarie University, but also what it looks like and how it can be achieved across disciplines.

In this presentation, attendees were invited to discuss the advantages and disadvantages to the approach as well as to get a clearer understanding of what the application of sustainability looks like in a curriculum. In the end, Leanne and Sara emphasized the value of the approach – it not only enhances the classroom learning itself, but adds a level of interest and application to the material. Further, with a staff on hand to assist with the development of sustainability elements in the curriculum, the transition does not require a major time commitment on the part of unit convenors.

For more information about this approach, visit the well-developed Sustainability website.

3 thoughts on “Sustainability in teaching – it’s not just about the environment”

  1. This really was a great session, thanks Leanne and Sara! It opened my eyes to how broad the concept of sustainability is (more than just compost and solar panels!) and how easy it is to embed into your curriculum, eg introducing it as a case study topic or debate as part of tutorial discussion. It is often already embedded in units, we just don’t realise it!

  2. Ha yes! Sustainability is such a broad concept which is often overly applied to solar panels and renewables. Great to see this take on it (from the education perspective).

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