Sustainable by Design:
The Science and Economics of Green Design

Our world is filled with “stuff”, but where does it all come from, and where does it go when it’s done? How—and why—do we design, create, use and dispose of the things we use each day? This  program explores ways to make design, building, and manufacturing greener and more equitable. Programs explore how scientific, economic and cultural factors influence decisions, and the implications for workers, consumers and business leaders. Take a program tour.

Topics: life cycle analysis, materials science, green chemistry, toxicology, greenwashing, social/environmental justice, economics, entrepreneurship, investing, energy, technology, policies

Audience: grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, higher ed, adult ed

Disciplines: economics and multiple STEM disciplines: earth science, physics, biology, environmental science, design, technology, engineering, business.

Career Connections: industrial and mechanical engineering, design, architecture, entrepreneur, finance, economics, business, marketing, construction and building trades.

Additional Resources:

"Loop Scoops" is a collection of short videos with lessons for grades K-4 to "help kids think about the stuff in their lives."  Developed by WGBH (Boston) with Creative Change as content consultant. 

"Sustainability and Economics 101," an article by Creative Change's Executive Director, Susan Santone.  The beginning of the article has an overview of ecological economics that is useful for any reader; the last part identifies teaching strategies for elementary.

Click here to view Sustainable by Design program evaluation results.

Our leveled programs provide a gradual process to help you transition to new ways of teaching and learning. Each level offers customized packages of professional development, curriculum licensing, and  planning.  Select from four levels based on your organization’s goals and level of readiness:

  1. Imagine the Change: 1-3 day introductory programs. Details
  2. Plan the Change: A 3-6 month strategic planning phase Details
  3. Begin the Change: Semester- or year-long programs to revise or create units, courses or programs.  Details
  4. Sustain the Change: Extended initiatives to build internal capacity and maintain effective change. Details

Level I: Imagine the Change

Level I programs introduce new ways of reframing content and instruction through a lens of ecological design, materials science, and product life cycles.  Participants envision and define possibilities for change as they experience approaches they can replicate in their own classes.  A typical package includes:

Example:  An educational institution is seeking ways to integrate ecological principles and social equity into courses in design and technology.  In a two-day workshop, Creative Change engages educators in hands-on activities focused on life cycle analysis, ecological design principles, and the links between the economy and the environment.  Educators review age-specific curricula and resources, and evaluate ways the approaches can be integrated into existing instruction to meet achievement goals.  After collecting data on faculty impressions and interests, Creative Change meets with the leadership team to develop a plan for moving ahead. 
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Level II: Plan the Change

Our Plan the Change programs provide 3-6 months of strategic planning to help institutions define goals, strategies, evaluation, and a timeline.  The work is guided by our Instruction Change framework, a needs assessment tool that examines institutional culture, curriculum, professional development, and other factors affecting the successful integration of sustainability. 

Example: After collecting data on faculty impressions and interests, Creative Change meets with the leadership team to develop a plan for integrating sustainability into the curriculum in ways that support existing initiatives.  

Level III: Begin the Change

Level III programs provide professional development, curriculum licensing and ongoing support focused on revising curriculum, courses and programs. Spread over a year or more, a typical package includes:

Example: After completing Levels I and II, the same institution works with Creative Change to map out a year-long initiative focused on reframing core units around Sustainable by Design program themes of life cycle analysis, green design and social equity, and the policies to support this.  The initiative unfolds over a calendar year in three steps: A) on-site professional development, B) instructional redesign, and C) evaluation and communication.

Step A) On-site Professional Development

Workshops begin by immersing teachers in content knowledge and research-based pedagogical strategies. To model effective approaches, the sessions engage staff in hands-on activities they can replicate with their students, followed by thoughtful analysis and discussion.  Approaches include:

Through these activities, educators define how the content and approaches can improve learning at their grade level.  Staff then evaluates their existing units or courses and set goals for reshaping them.  The science and health teachers collaborate on a unit exploring electronics, disposal, and the health aspects of heavy metals.  An economics teacher focuses on subsidies affecting the manufacturing of "greener" materials, while the geography teacher examines the global impacts of e-waste and cultural attitudes affecting it.  All efforts integrate social equity by exploring connections among race, class and environmental risks. The staff works together to generate authentic ways students can apply their learning, such as a computer recycling campaign in partnership with the city, or student-led outreach to local citizens about environmental health.

Step B) Instructional redesign

The PD now shifts to the on-the-ground work of redesigning the units based on the goals set.  Creative Change’s approach to instructional design provides educators with a process and framework for planning units that start with students’ experiences, build an integrated knowledge base, and culminate in meaningful civic engagement. C urriculum resources from the on-line Curriculum and Resource Center support teachers as they

As faculty continue their work in a learning community approach, Creative Change provides on-going planning support through phone, email, and in-person meetings. Support strategies include unit planning, developing assessments, and evaluation support.  For example, Creative Change helps a teacher team develop specialized assessment tools to ensure the project meets achievement goals.

Step C) Evaluation and documentation

By the end of the year, the faculty have evaluated the impacts of their work and are ready to replicate the approaches in other areas of the curriculum.  To support this, Creative Change compiles pictures, reports, presentations and other documentation in order to communicate results and provide models for replication.  Based on the success of the work, the collaboration with Creative Change grows to other departments or schools through a Level IV program.
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Level IV:  Sustain the Change

Level IV programs enable schools and districts to deepen instructional change by building internal capacity to institutionalize successful approaches. Schools gain training, resources and strategic planning assistance focused on preparing an internal team to lead, evaluate, and sustain instructional change.  These packages, spread over a year or more, typically include

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