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An activity to encourage students to think about how sustainability issues are embedded in many day-to-day activities and throughout a product’s life cycle. It also aims to show how sustainability issues have implications for all designing and making activities.
When to use the activity
Line-ups is best suited for use when first discussing sustainability but could be used as a revision activity later if students have forgotten how integral it should be to their thinking.
Who is the activity for?
Use in groups, probably no more than 10 being involved at a time – you can ask some students to be involved in one line-up then involve others in the next. It is suitable for both AS and A2 students.
Sustainability issues considered
Although an introductory activity, it can be used to bring out any and all issues, depending on the topics you choose.
The activity is not intended to meet specific criteria but will certainly help students understand fundamental issues of sustainability.
The Activity and hints on how to organise it
• Choose an everyday activity that brings out the existence of environmental, social and economic issues, e.g. making a cup of tea or coffee
• Ask students to think about the process of making tea or coffee in their household and what usually happens, from sourcing the ingredients to the end of their life.
• Ask them to think about how far the choice of ingredients normally takes account of the following things:
- Where the tea or coffee came from and who was involved in its production – has
it travelled a long distance, was it traded fairly, who picked the tea, coffee?
- Where the milk came from – milkman, supermarket, local farm, a central depot?
- Where the sugar came from – distance travelled, amount of processing involved?
• Now ask them to stand at different points from one end of the room to the other depending on how they much they think about the issues above. For example, if they buy fair-traded tea, local milk and unprocessed sugar, they should go to one end of room. If they never consider any of those points they go to the other end of the room. If they buy fair-traded tea but don’t consider milk or sugar they should stand somewhere between.
• Repeat the line-up activity but now thinking about the making phase:
- Do they measure the amount of water according to the number of cups that are to be made?
- Do they leave the kettle and have to re-boil it again because the water has cooled?
- Do they use a pot or percolator?
• Complete a third line-up using the end of life-cycle, asking students to assess:
- What they do with any leftover water?
- What they do with coffee filters or tea bags/leaves?
- What they do with the packets the tea or coffee came in?
- What do they do with the dirty cups?
• Review the activity to bring out the point that there are sustainability issues in most of the everyday choices we make.
Line-ups - Other daily activities
Think about cleaning your teeth this morning and how much water you used while doing it.
- If you had the water running all the time you were cleaning, then go to the near end of the room
- If you only had the tap running for the minimum amount of time necessary, go to the far end
- If you had the tap running some of the time but could have reduced the amount of water, go to somewhere in the middle
What’s it got to do with sustainability? It’s an example of how we should try to reduce the amount of scarce resources we use in any activity, especially when we are designing something.
Disposing of waste at home
Think about how you dispose of waste in your house and how much of it you think about recycling.
- If you recycle everything that is potentially recyclable - paper, plastics, glass, clothing, biodegradable waste, go to the far end of the room
- If you put everything in the bin regardless, go to the near end
- If you recycle some, go to somewhere in the middle
What’s it got to do with sustainability? It’s important to think about what will happen to a product when we’ve finished with it when it’s being designed.
The last article of clothing you bought
Think about the last article you bought and whether or not you thought about any of the following things before you bought it. Who made it and what did they get paid for making it? Which country was it made in and how far did it have to travel to get to you? What materials is it made from, what sort of dyes were used?
- If you thought about all of those things, go to near end
- If you thought about none, go to the far end
- If you thought about one or two, go to somewhere in the middle
What’s it got to do with sustainability? Our decisions as designers and consumers have all sorts of impacts. They create jobs for some people but do they get a fair deal? Energy consumption may be increased because we want cheap clothes mass-produced in China. Environmental damage may be increased through the use of chemicals and travel.