What is Education for Sustainability?

Transition Epping members, parents and students from Epping North Public School at their compost bay workshop.

Education for Sustainability runs workshops that give teachers the skills and confidence to teach their students the concepts of sustainability in their subject discipline(s). Sustainability refers to considering how our actions today will impact on the quality of life of future generations – environmentally, socially, culturally, economically and personally. It’s a broad concept that has many applications across all subject areas.

Education for Sustainability (EfS) is also the term used to describe the process of integrating the core theme of sustainability across the the Australian Curriculum. The following quote is from the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) website http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/cross-curriculum-priorities:

The Sustainability priority provides the opportunity for students to develop an appreciation of the necessity of acting for a more sustainable future and so address the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life and meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. This priority will allow all young Australians to develop the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary for them to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.

Education for Sustainability is also a mandatory requirement under the National Quality Standards for early childhood teachers http://www.acecqa.gov.au/physical-environment, particularly Quality Standard 3.3: The service takes an active role in caring for its environment and contributes to a sustainable future.


Education for Sustainability is much more than environmental education! It covers both the natural and built environment, social, economic and governance considerations and personal resilience. It encompasses the following practices:

  • envisioning a sustainable future
  • critical and reflective thinking
  • experiential learning
  • recognising the linkages across subject areas and the interconnectedness of all
  • human and natural systems
  • personal behaviour change towards sustainability
  • understanding systems theory and thinking systemically (seeing the big picture)

The challenge for many teachers and academics working in specific disciplines is how to teach the overarching concepts of sustainability in their specific subject areas.

Whilst it may be easier to include EfS in some subjects compared to others, it is possible to adopt a sustainability perspective in all subjects.