One School, One Tree, One Gift to Nature

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Education for sustainable development (ESD) is an approach to teaching and learning based on the ideals and principles that underlie sustainability or sustainable development and concerned with all levels and types of education. ESD promotes the lifelong acquisition of knowledge and skills to help people actively find and apply innovative solutions to environmental, economic, cultural and social challenges.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), ESD is about learning to:
- respect, value and preserve the achievements of the past;
- appreciate the wonders and the peoples of the Earth;
- live in a world where all people have sufficient food for a healthy and productive life;
- assess, care for and restore the state of our planet;
- create and enjoy a better, safer, more just world;
- be caring citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities locally, nationally and globally.

The formal concept of ESD emerged at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (more commonly known as the Rio Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil in 1992. One of the major documents adopted at the summit, Agenda 21, articulated the importance of education in achieving sustainable development. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 noted four major areas to begin the work of ESD: (1) improve basic education, (2) reorient existing education to address sustainable development, (3) develop public understanding, awareness, and (4) training.

In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 57/254 to designate 2005-2014 as the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). The goal of the DESD, for which UNESCO is the lead agency, is to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning.

This educational effort seeks to encourage changes in behaviour that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, cultural diversity, and a just society for present and future generations.

The Green Wave and the DESD

The Green Wave makes it easy for teachers to integrate ESD into the classroom. Many elements of the project demonstrate elements of ESD, for example:

•    conducting background research on biodiversity issues;
•    networking with students, educators and other supportive groups around the world;
•    selecting an appropriate tree species based on locally-relevant social, environmental, cultural and economic considerations;
•    promoting participatory decision-making in planning the 22 May Green Wave celebration;
•    integrating multi-method approaches and diverse media in the preparation for and the celebration on 22 May.

The "Green Wave and ESD elements table" provides some examples of how The Green Wave corresponds to ESD elements. Information on each of the ESD elements is elaborated on UNESCO’s website.




For more information about ESD, read the ESD toolkit and visit UNESCO’s DESD website.