Eco-Art Education in North America

By Katherine Lee

Table of Contents                                                                                                     

1.  Introduction

2.  Background

3. Case Studies of Eco-Art Education in North America 

4. The Influence of Eco-Artists on Art Education in North America 

5. Conclusion

6. References

7. About the Author

1.  Introduction

This entry aims to shed light on how eco-art education in North America can support students’ ecological literacy and develop awareness in environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic issues through art making. An analysis of the background of eco-art education, including its definition, history, and a variety of theoretical and pedagogical perspectives, will be provided in detail. Next, case studies from elementary and high school demonstrating eco-art’s positive effects on the development of students’ ecological literacy will be discussed. Lastly, the influence of eco-artists on art education in raising awareness about nature, community, and culture, within the context of students’ lives and their contributions to environmental sustainability, will be examined.

2. Background

Eco-art education, also known as environmental art education or ecological art education, can be defined as an integration between art education and environmental education, ‘as a means of developing awareness of and engagement with concepts such as interdependence, biodiversity, conservation, restoration and sustainability’ (Inwood, 2010, p. 2).  Eco-art education provides an original way of promoting ecological literacy and the fundamentals of environmental education through the established origins of environmental education (endowed in the ‘cognitive, positivist approach of science education’), combined with the artistic, affective, and visual methods of art education (Inwood, 2008, p. 58). 

The effect of humanity’s impact on the climate and its consequences such as global warming, pollution, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, and over-population constitute threatening and alarming issues that are difficult for the world to ignore. Eco-art education was born and developed precisely as a response to these environmental issues. Dynamic artists such as Hans Haacke and Brian Jungen have been instrumental to the creation of this movement in the last four decades (Inwood, 2013). Literature on the discussions and exploration of the emerging field of eco-art education in North America as a response to environmental degradation can also be traced back to the last four decades (Blandy and Hoffmann, 1993; Gablik, 1991; Neperud, 1973). The greater part of literature in this field is devoted to theoretical perspectives supporting the need for eco-art education and to pedagogical perspectives outlining methods of teaching this field in the classroom. Inwood (2005, 2010) laments the fact that very few applied studies have been carried out in this field and that explorations of educators’ perspectives on the implementation of eco-art education and the establishment of curricula and development at elementary and secondary school levels are also absent. 

Inwood (2005) states that the most convincing arguments about the need for eco-art education that emerged in the last decade are aligned with changes in the area of art education, ‘calling for a higher degree of social relevance for art education programs’ (p. 43). Several scholars have referenced Gablik’s (1991) work on connective aesthetics as having played an important role in the development of eco-art education. Gablik criticizes modernist art as being autonomous, unassociated, and focusing on individual creativity, which caters to a capitalistic and utilitarian society. Gablik (1991) argues that art should instead be focused on discourse, partnership, and interconnection. By linking art to everyday life, creative methods of targeting society’s social and environmental issues could become a vehicle for making positive social changes and raising awareness through the engagement of the public eye (Gablik, 1991). Blandy and Hoffman (1993), two art educators, concur with Gablik’s perspective and suggest that art should be seen as ‘a means to engage individuals in social and political issues in ways that empower them, create alliances and establish community’ (p. 29). From a pedagogical perspective, Hollis (1997) emphasizes the necessity for ‘an art curriculum that deals with ecological issues which can empower students with the understanding that they, as creative individuals, can have an active voice in protecting their environment and changing current devastating ecological trends’ (p. 21). 

The ideas proposed in the 1980’s and 1990’s that were discussed above have encouraged a discussion on suitable methods.Blandy and Hoffman (1993) suggest a bioregional perspective, where a shared appreciation of local identity is redeveloped by means of critical awareness and consideration of the unification of ecological communities, supporting an understanding of ‘the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things’ (p. 28). Garoian (1998) put forth a pedagogy for eco-art education ‘whose curricular metaphors are based on empathy, compassion and caring for the land’, and which ‘recognizes the community-based experiences of students as a complement to that of the teacher’s curriculum’ (p. 260). He states that art students are able to present a variety of environmental outlooks which symbolize their involvement with human and nonhuman societies.   

Alternative eco-art education pedagogies, specifically critical place-based pedagogies in art education, have stemmed from environmental education. Bowers (2001) argues that the lack of significant environmental education can be seen in American schools due to the preference for standardized and high stakes testing, which have led to a disregard for the importance of the ecological and the local. Place-based education is a reaction to systematic pedagogy that ignores events of ecological importance and local human citizenries (Graham, 2007).  Graham (2007) continues that ‘by connecting learning to real-world experiences, students can construct meaningful connections among cultural, political and social issues’ (p. 377).  

However, Gruenewald (2003) points to a problem in place-based education in which the latter emphasizes ecological and rural conditions but ignores components such as politics, disparity, and socio-cultural divergences which also play a role in environmental deterioration. Bowers (2001) claims that equally as troublesome is the disregard of ecological issues in local communities and cultures, which are vital for the natural world to survive in the scheme of critical theory. As a solution to such issues Graham (2007) proposes a critical pedagogy of place that considers the interconnections of ecological, social, cultural, economic, and political problems and provides opportunities for students to think critically and connect art and learning as a reaction to issues in ecology, nature, place and culture within their own lives and their local communities. Graham finds that art education shaped by critical place-based pedagogy questions the traditional forms of art and its limits capturing students in ‘reflective and transformative learning’ (p. 388). Critical place-based pedagogy can stimulate people’s curiosity about their environment, a consciousness about the cultural and social influences which endanger them and encourage them to make a change (Graham, 2007).   

3. Case Studies of Eco-Art Education in North America

Inwood’s case study, Cultivating Artistic Approaches to Environmental Learning: Exploring Eco-Art Education in Elementary Classrooms (2013)analyses four elementary teachers’ experiments with the design and implementation of curriculum and pedagogy of eco-art education across four different schools in Toronto, Canada. The study was conducted based on the belief that eco-art education could help develop students’ ecological literacy and awareness in environmental issues through cross-curricular learning.  Inwood (2013) reports that the team of teachers acknowledged the powerful ability of eco-art education in reinforcing students’ relationships with their own place. The teachers also agreed that the definition of eco-art education which focused on raising awareness of ‘human’s relationships with and/or impact on the earth’ rather than on the materials and methods used was more effective (Inwood, 2013, p. 137). Inwood (2013) highlighted one teacher’s reasoning about eco-art education: art is all art that conveys a respect for the earth, for our natural environment, the interconnectedness of our eco systems, and the importance of ecological literacy... I think the bottom line for me was always respect. And the kids got that very strong message — respect for self, respect for others, respect for community, respect for the world, respect for everything in it (p.137). 

Another case study was conducted with secondary students in an American high school in Virginia by Taylor, an art educator. In her article, It All Started with the Trash: Taking Steps toward Sustainable Art Education (1997),she highlights her attempts in developing students’ ecological literacy through emphasizing the environmental issue of trash, studying a variety of relevant artist studies and focusing discussion and work on community collaboration and stewardship. In one example, students had to work collaboratively in creating earthworks, products of an art movement which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, often using natural materials from the earth and being site-specific. Students created earthworks as a reaction to the immense amount of trash humans created that were harming the earth. These were then formulated outside the school in which they participated actively in listening, communal thinking, carefully choosing their medium, and then disclosing their knowledge of the genuine problem - themselves. Taylor (1997) writes that during these episodes, students appeared to be more aware of the materials they utilized, as they made sure to use items that would not harm the earth. As artworks were gradually deteriorating in time, students became more conscious of the environmental issues that existed in the community through relevant artist studies, the carefully chosen eco-friendly materials used and the realization of the amount of trash that was produced in the art room itself day to day. One student claimed ‘I never really thought about that much meaning in art before. It makes it more meaningful, you know?’ (Taylor 1997, p. 18). 

4. The Influence of Eco-Artists on Art Education in North America

Since the 1960s, artists from all realms of the arts in North America have not only been producing art to raise environmental awareness but have also been using art as a means of producing innovative and sustainable answers to environmental challenges in societies (Inwood, 2010). Gablik (1991) argues that the importance of individualism in contemporary aesthetics and the disconnect of art from the living creates a disengaged audience. She highlights the significance of artworks for promoting environmental issues and raising awareness and involvement amongst citizens. Graham (2007) builds on Gablik’s argument and states that the work of eco-artists breaks presumptions about our connection with the natural environment and advocates art as a vehicle for ‘interdisciplinary connections and active involvement in environmental restoration’ (p. 380). He states that introducing students to these kinds of artworks and ideas allows them to integrate crucial issues of society, politics and domination within the local context of their lives through the connection of art education. Anderson (2000) asserts that eco-artists view creating art as a community-based execution, which enhances ecological accountability and advocates community restoration.  

5.  Conclusion

Eco-art education as an emerging field of environmental education and art education in North America can support students’ ecological literacy and develop awareness in environmental, social, cultural, political and economic issues through art making. The demand for the interconnection between art and science by educators, critics and curators has been the grounds for the development of several theoretical perspectives on eco-art education in North America, along with the influence of eco-artists, dating back a few decades. Gablik’s (1991) work on connective aesthetics played an important role in the development of eco-art education. Pedagogical perspectives which derived from theoretical standpoints on eco-art education then evolved, specifically critical place-based pedagogies. Critical place-based pedagogies in arts education allow students to develop critical thinking skills and connect art and learning as a reaction to issues in ecology, nature, place and culture, within their own lives and communities (Graham, 2007). 

The two case studies at the elementary and high school level in Canada and the US were presented to show that the implementation of eco-art education can help develop students’ ecological literacy and awareness of social, cultural, political, economic and environmental issues. The influence of eco-artists on art education was also examined and proven to have a positive effect on raising students’ awareness of interdisciplinary issues and understanding art as community-based (Anderson, 2000; Gablik, 1991), and as an example of the ‘interdependence and interconnectedness of all things’ (Blandy and Hoffman, 1993). Most of the literature in the field is focused on theoretical and pedagogical perspectives, and further research needs to be done in understanding the perceptions of educators in implementing eco-art education curricula and pedagogy at elementary and secondary school levels (Inwood 2005, 2010).

6.  References

Anderson, H. (2000). A River Runs through It: Art Education and a River Environment. Art Education,53(6), 13-18.

Blandy, D., & Hoffman, E. (1993). Toward an Art Education of Place. Studies in Art Education,35(1), 22-33. doi:10.2307/1320835

Bowers, C. (2001). Educating for Eco-Justice and Community. Athens/London: University of Georgia Press.

Gablik, S. (1991). The Reenchantment of Art. New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson.

Garoian, Charles R. (1998). Art Education and the Aesthetics of Land Use in the Age of Ecology. Studies in Art Education,39(3), 244-61.

Graham, M. A. (2007). Art, Ecology and Art Education: Locating Art Education in a Critical Place-Based Pedagogy. Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research in Art Education,48(4), 375-391.

Gruenewald, D. (2003). The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place. Educational Researcher,32(4), 3-12.

Hollis, C. L. (1997). On Developing an Art and Ecology Curriculum. Art Education,50(6), 21-24.

Inwood, H. (2005). Investigating Educators' Attitudes Toward Eco-Art Education. Canadian Review of Art Education: Research & Issues32(1).

Inwood, H. (2008). Mapping Eco-Art Education. Canadian Review of Art Education: Research and Issues35, 57-73.

Inwood, H. (2010). Shades of Green: Growing Environmentalism through Art Education. Art Education63(6), 33-38.

Inwood, H. J. (2013). Cultivating Artistic Approaches to Environmental Learning: Exploring Eco-Art Education in Elementary Classrooms. International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education3(2), 129-145.

Neperud, R. (1973). Art Education: Towards an Environmental Aesthetic. Art Education,26(3), 7-10.

Neperud, R. W. (1997). Art, Ecology, and Art Education: Practices and Linkages. Art Education,50(6), 14-20.

Taylor, P. G. (1997). It all Started with the Trash: Taking Steps toward Sustainable Art Education. Art education50(2), 13-18.

 7. About the Author

 Katherine Lee

MEd, The University of Hong Kong 



The Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education and Teacher Training in Uzbekistan

By Khaydarov Sherzod

Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. The Role of the Government in the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

3. The Incorporation of ESD in Higher Education and Teacher Training Institutions in Uzbekistan

3.1. ESD Implementation in Higher Education 

3.2. ESD Implementation in Teacher Training Institutions 

4. Challenges and Recommendations 

5. Conclusion

6. References

7. About the Author

1.     Introduction

Education for sustainable development (ESD), its implementation and its efficiency to build sustainable communities, is a major concern for researchers and policymakers. The announcement of 2005-2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) by the United Nations (UN) encouraged worldwide implementation of practices intended to contribute to sustainable development. The central goal of DESD was to facilitate the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals and to advance ESD globally (UNESCO, 2009). In 2015, the UN launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an extension of MDGs. However, various controversial opinions arose regarding the concepts of ESD in respect of environmental education (EE), considerations of neoliberal ideology, and, more importantly, contextual differences in use (Jickling and Wals, 2008; Hopwood, Mellor and O’Brien, 2005; Kopnina, 2012). Although authors expressed their worries by claiming that EE’s eco-centric perspective might be deterred with the emergence of ESD, this entry’s argument is grounded on McKeown and Hopkins’ (2003) perspective, which envisions the relationship between the two as healthy and symbiotic. 

UNESCO (2009) highlighted that the integration of ESD in education should be based on the settings and circumstances of each sub-region or country. Uzbekistan (Figure 1) started implementing ESD within its own context in cooperation with international organisations (IOs). This study aims to examine the endeavours to implement ESD in Uzbekistan. The entry focuses on higher education (HE) and teacher training institutions (TTIs), because these stages are efficient ways of disseminating SDGs by preparing future teachers and training current ones. The most challenging aspect of this topic is a research gap on an academic level; therefore, this entry relies on reports and resources of IOs. It serves to fill aninformation gap which can be helpful for students, teachers, and researchers who refer to Uzbekistan.

Figure 1.  The map of Uzbekistan (Retrieved from ).

Figure 1. The map of Uzbekistan (Retrieved from

2. The Role of the Government in the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s current state of economic transition is facing multiple challenges, but the most salient is the environmental challenge. The Aral Sea catastrophe, one of the worst man-made ecological disasters (Figure 2), has led Uzbekistan to prioritise water policy. Being a double land-locked country, Uzbekistan has to rely on its restricted water resources to support sustainability in agriculture, the backbone of its economy. Therefore, SD became a priority direction in the development of the country and ESD has become one of the significant tools in raising awareness of the emerging environmental challenges.

Figure 2.  The Aral Sea Disaster (Retrieved from: ).

Figure 2. The Aral Sea Disaster (Retrieved from:

As a member of the world community, Uzbekistan embarked on the policy for Sustainable Development (SD) in 1997 by establishing the National Commission for Sustainable Development to achieve the tasks set in the Agenda for the 21stcentury and the World Summit on SD in Johannesburg (Country Profile, 2002). This was followed by the adoption of the ‘State Strategy for Sustainable Development’ in 1999 (Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC), 2009). However, economic and agricultural recessions in the early years of independence caused shortages in funding for SD activities; thus the government relied on the aid of IOs, such as UNESCO, UNDP, and the World Bank (CAREC, 2006).

In 2005, the National Commission for SD and its operational working group was abolished and its functions were allocated to a department in the Cabinet of Ministers. CAREC (2009) also stated that the authorisation of ESD into education systems had a ‘declarative character’, and in fact little was done practically (p. 48). Even though the ‘Concept of Education for Sustainable Development’ was adopted by Uzbekistan in 2011 (Vlek et al., 2017). Azizov (2016) reported that the integration of ESD in the curriculum was partial and not implemented in practice. Furthermore, the term ‘sustainability’ cannot be found in any of the state curricula of primary, secondary or higher education. These curricula may characterise some universal notions of ESD, but they cover only basic knowledge with a limited number of hours. 

3. The Incorporation of ESD in Higher Education and Teacher Training Institutions in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, there are 78 tertiary institutions administered by the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education and 16 teacher training institutions under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Education. The implementation of ESD in HE and TTIs is mainly related to ESD’s environmental dimension. EE is compulsory in all tertiary institutions due to the law on the ‘Nature Protection’ of Uzbekistan in 1992. EE existed long before in higher education curriculum.

3.1. ESD Implementation in Higher Education

There are two examples of integrating ESD at the tertiary level. The first is a partnership between the National University of Uzbekistan and the National Commission of the Republic for UNESCO. In cooperation, they established ‘the Coordination Council for EE and ESD’ which dealt with organising forums and seminars to introduce the goals of ESD, preparing Uzbek translation of multimedia programs for teaching and learning, and creating ESD guidebooks for teachers (UNESCO, 2013). The second is the launch of the UNESCO Chair on ESD at the State University of Urgench in 2011, to promote research, create a database on the subject, prepare and train staff, and establish cooperation between distinguished foreign researchers and the teachers of national universities ‘within the framework of train-the-trainers module’ in the field. (UNESCO, 2013, p. 27). Another major goal of this collaboration was to study and investigate the environmental conditions of the regions surrounding the Aral Sea. 

All regional universities provide bachelor’s courses on Ecology, Environment or Nature, and most technical universities have environmental engineering specialties. However, UNECE (2010) observed that no university curricula has fields of study such as ‘Environmental monitoring’, ‘Environmental Law’ or ‘Environmental Management’ despite being core courses of environmental studies. This is a very critical omission in the curricula, as the majority of specialists working for the government and non-government organisations will have to increase their qualifications by studying abroad. From the given examples, it is apparent that current curricula largely focus on environmental protection, but do not address other concepts of ESD. CAREC (2006) attributed the issue to lack of awareness of university teachers and administration about SD.

By contrast, Azizov (2016) asserted that ESD was partly integrated into subjects of ‘Ecology’ and ‘The Protection of the Environment’ in pedagogical institutions andpointed out that the syllabus included some general ESD notions, such as gender equality, HIV/AIDS prevention, and health. However, ESD’s aim of ‘capacity building’ (Vare and Scott, 2007) of individuals was overlooked by authorities and therefore by most students, and even teachers. 

3.2.ESD Implementation in Teacher Training Institutions

Despite the fact that tertiary institutions have general EE classes, graduating future educators are not well trained to include ESD concepts in their practice. Therefore, training current and early career teachers has become the task of TTIs. However, ESD at TTIs is also still focused on environmental topics (UNECE, 2009). This can be explained in the same way that was mentioned above, in the example of HE.  However, the EE of TTIs is slightly different from HE courses, because the duration of teacher training courses is limited to one month. Thus, the task of training for ESD is an extra load to in-service training courses. As the time frame of training cannot cover complete training of ESD, these courses are mostly restricted to delivering only the basics of ESD within several hours of training. One of the leading TTIs in Tashkent reported that they had only an eight-hour program of ESD training (UNESCO, 2010). Obviously, the integration of ESD in teacher training programmes is not fully applied, but considering the limitation of time, it should not be regarded as unsatisfactory. Rather, policymakers should consider solving the problem in a rational way. 

In general, EE has been the main course both in HE and TTIs. This is completely reasonable from the environmental perspective of the country. However, economy, society, and the environment are inextricably linked to each other. It is impossible to maintain the sustainability of the one without considering the others.  Therefore, maintaining the environmental sustainability will remain a challenge, without addressing social and economic problems in the country. 

4. Challenges and Recommendations

Vlek et al. (2017) pointed out three major challenges in the implementation of ESD: lack of competent trainers, deficiency of ‘networks’ to share experience, and the absence of teaching and learning materials (p. 60). Assimilating the experiences of foreign countries might be one of the possible solutions. For example, establishing an ‘ESD Society’ as a national network for SD in HE, or ‘eco-school programmes’ as an agenda to encourage schools to create their own sustainability programmes, such as in Hungary, would be very effective (UNECE, 2009, p. 35). Moreover, launching a journal of ESD would also enhance communication among researchers and practitioners, and strengthen the dialogue between administrators, scholars, and other benefited stakeholders. However, these are associated mainly with teaching processes. 

There are some other challenges which address a broader scope of ESD. One of the main challenges is to develop a consciousness of sustainability amongst students, teachers, and university staff. The implementation of ESD is not only restricted with the introduction of the subject into the curriculum and textbooks, but it also includes shaping the attitudes and behaviours of people towards SD (UNECE, 2005). It would be more logical to take regular practical actions such as roof gardening, “ditch disposable" campaigns, eco-energy programs, waste management within campuses (which are successfully implemented at the University of Hong Kong). They are very cost-effective and practically viable for most HE institutions.  

The implementation of ESD in formal education has a preliminary character, and legal bases are outdated, mostly reflecting MDGs. Therefore, the concept of ESD should be revised to consider future focal points towards achieving SDGs based on national interests. More emphasis should be directed to monitoring of the implementation. Also, there is a huge gap in awareness between the actors on the top and performers at the bottom. According to Vare and Scott (2007), policymakers regard ESD as a tool for delivering knowledge about SD and the authors expressed their worries against such policy. They pointed out that ESD should be a ‘learning process’, i.e., a bottom-up process in order to be successful (p. 5). Therefore, the government should also pay attention to raising awareness of the people through non-governmental organisations and volunteering groups. There are only a small number of such groups in the country and their activities are limited to specific areas, specifically in the capital only. 

5. Conclusion

Extensive implementation of ESD requires amending curricula, creating new textbooks, training teachers, renovating and modernising school buildings and so forth, which have been an excessive economic burden for the government. However, when financial barriers mount, goals seem unachievable, making the situation even worse. Today, if humanity transgresses the boundaries of the environment, the outcomes will be detrimental to the population of the world. Hence, maintaining the sustainability of the environment, economy and society has become a necessity in each country. The best way to do so is to educate people to live, act and think sustainably by infusing values of sustainability. Education can play a critical role in transformation to sustainability and long-term development in the country. The people of Uzbekistan have already experienced the dire consequences of unsustainable water management and irrigation, such as with the Aral Sea destruction and water crisis. Therefore, there is a need for further consideration of state policy to create efficient and sustainable learning environments at HE systems through combined efforts of stakeholders, community, government officials and international organisations.

6. References

Azizov, A. A. (2016). Оценка действий Республики Узбекистан по внедрению образования в интересах устойчивого развития в систему среднего и среднегоспециального образования [The Assessment of Actions of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in the System of Secondary and Secondary Special Education]. UNESCO Report, Tashkent.  

Country Profile. (2002). Johannesburg Summit 2002. Uzbekistan. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Retrieved from

Hong Kong University Sustainability Office. (2017). HKU Sustainability Report 2015.Retrieved from

Hopwood, B., Mellor, M., & O’Brien, G. (2005). Sustainable Development: Mapping Different Approaches. Sustainable Development. 13, 38-52. doi: 10.1002/sd.244  

Jickling, B., & Wals, A. E. J. (2008). Globalisation and Environmental Education: Looking beyond Sustainable Development. Journal of Curriculum Studies40(1), 1–21.doi: 10.1080/00220270701684667 

Kopnina, H. (2012). Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): The Turn Away from ‘Environment’ in Environmental Education? Environmental Education Research18(5), 699-717. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2012.658028

McKeown, R. & Hopkins, Ch. (2003). EE p ESD: Defusing the Worry. Environmental Education Research, 9(1), 117-128. doi: 10.1080/13504620303469 

National Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Sustainable Development (NCSD). (1998). Концепция устойчивого развития Республики Узбекистан [The Conception of Sustainable Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan].Retrieved from

Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC). (2006). Progress Review on Education for Sustainable Development in Central Asia. Almaty. Retrieved from

Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC). (2009). Legal Acts, Programmes and Regulatory Frameworks of Education in the Central Asian Region.Almaty. Retrieved from

The Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education. (2015). Higher Educational Institutions.Retrieved from  

Vare, P. & Scott, W. (2007). Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development1(2), 191-198. doi: 10.1177/097340820700100209

Vlek, P. L. G., Eshchanov, R., Khodjaniyazov, S., Rudenko, I. & Lamers, J. P. A. (2017). From Theory to Practice: Challenges and Constraints to Introducing Education for Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan. In Michelsen, G. & Wells, P. J. (Eds.). A Decade of Progress on Education for Sustainable Development: Reflections from the UNESCO Chairs Programme (pp. 59-65).Paris: UNESCO. 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (2005). The UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development.Vilnius. 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (2009). Learning from Each Other: The UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development.New York and Geneva. 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (2010). Environmental Performance Reviews: Uzbekistan. Second review, 29. New York and Geneva. 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2009). Review of Contexts and Structures for Education for Sustainable Development 2009.Paris: UNESCO. 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2010). Education for International Understanding through In-service Training: Uzbekistan Experience, EIU Best Practices, 10. APCEIU.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2013). UNESCO Country Programming Document for the Republic of Uzbekistan (2014-2017).Tashkent: UNESCO. 

Uzbekistan State World Languages University. (2017, January 24). Education in Uzbekistan to Focus More on Sustainable Development.Retrieved from

About the Author

Khaydarov Sherzod

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


Environmental Philosophy

By XU Wanting

Tables of contents

1. Introduction

2. History of Environmental Philosophy

3. Core Disputes

4. Anthropocentric Reformism

5. Environmental Ethics

6. Radical Ecology

7. Conclusion

1.    Introduction

Suppose that Walt Disney was going to build a ski resort in a wildness area adjacent to a national park, which could produce revenues of millions of dollars and provide hundreds of jobs. Isit acceptable for the government to approve this project at the risk of harming the natural environment? When scientists do animal tests to research new medicine, is it justifiable for animal protectors to rescue them from laboratories? If humans have to choose between killing animals or burning plants for their own survival, should they choose to destroy plants, as animals are viewed as superior to plants? What is the rationale underlying environmental protection activities, for the well-being of this generation, the sustenance of our descendants, and other reasons?

Exploration of answers to thesequestions falls into the sphere of environmental philosophy. Environmental philosophy is the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship between human beings and nature, as well as the value and moral status of the environment and its non-human contents (Brennan andLo, 2010). The history of environmental philosophy is characterized by controversies concerning issues such as global warming, biodiversity, and sustainability. These controversial cases stemming from concrete situations for how we relate to the Earth (Klaver, 2007).

Environmental ethics focuses on the moral status of and relationship between humans and nature. Ethics is a branch of philosophy, so environmental philosophy is a broader concept that covers environmental ethics. Desjardins (2006, p. 20) argues that ‘philosophy insists that we do not remain at the level of normative ethics’ and resolving controversies requires us to ‘examine the values in conflict and the competing factors that underlie the value.’ Brennan (1995)contends that in the third decade of environmental ethics, it is necessary to adopt a broader perspective to research it. Due to some philosophers adopting ‘environmental ethics’ in their early works, ‘environmental ethics’ will also often appear in this entry.

Because environmental philosophy is a big concept, the entry aims to give a basic but inclusive introduction to different influential environmental philosophy theories. Zimmerman (1998)divides environmental philosophy into three categories: anthropocentric reformism, environmental ethics, and radical ecology. This entry will introduce environmental philosophy with reference to this structure. These theories are helpful to improve environmental education as they give different explanations on how human beings should handle their relationship with nature.

2.    History of Environmental Philosophy

Environmental philosophy has a long history in western culture. It can be traced back to the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, to literature works of romanticism poets and transcendentalists, such as Wordsworth and Thoreau, and to conservation movements led by Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot (Gallagher, 1997). Although many factors contribute to the emergence of environmental philosophy, the 1960s is the critical period for the field to develop as it saw ‘the rapid growth of information concerning a diverse array of environmental ethics, including overpopulation and its relation to poverty and famine, the depletion of non-renewable resources, and the harmful effects to human and non-human by chemical pollutants’ (De Laplante, 2006, p. 52). Other events such as the Great Smog of 1952 in London and the Japan minamata disease in 1956 also evoked public environmental-protection consciousness. All these environmental problems prompted human beings to reflect on the relationship between human beings and nature.

In the 1960s, groundbreaking academic works were published, influential environmental movements were organized, and some policy reforms started taking place. Rachel Carson’s best-selling book Silent Spring was published in 1962, and Lynn White’s article The Historical Root of Our Ecological Crisiswas published in 1967. Numerous NGOs, like Sierra Club, which sued Disney for intending to build an entertainment resort in wilderness, were established and supported by citizens. Governments were forced to develop legislation to respond to environmental issues, such as, for example, the UK passing Clean Air Act in 1956 as a reaction to the Great Smog (Gallagher, 1997).

3.    Core Disputes

De Laplante (2006) summarizes two major sets of questions that divide the academic community on the subject of environmental philosophy:

(1)  Do human beings have moral obligations to protect or preserve the natural environment? If so, what are they, and to whom, or what, are they owned? How are such obligations justified?

(2)  What are the root causes of contemporary attitudes and practices with respect to the natural environment, and how can we change them? (p. 48)

Answers to the first set of questions effectively define the field of ‘environmental ethics.’ It is within the context of these questions that students are introduced to the important distinction between anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric approaches to ground the moral obligations towards the environment. Answers to the second set of questions effectively define the field known as ‘radical ecology’ introduced in Section 6.

At the heart of the first set of questions lies the debate about whether nature has ‘instrumental value’ or ‘intrinsic value.’ ‘Instrumental value’ means that the existence of the environment is only for human beings’ interests. On the contrary, ‘intrinsic value’ refers to how the environment ought to be regarded as worthy of respect rather than merely useful. Those who support the intrinsic-value argument hold that humans do not have the right to define the value inherently existing in natural objects. The environment has value beyond satisfying human aims (Palmer, McShane, and Sandler, 2014). This debate is important, because things of intrinsic value deserve moral concern. For instance, although people in persistent vegetative states cannot speak or move, as long as we recognize they have intrinsic value, they still should be treated with moral concern. ‘The intrinsic value associated with life forms the foundation of an environmental ethic, enabling us to recognize nature’s moral importance’ (Agar, 2001, p. 2). Whether the environment has intrinsic value or not determinesthe way human beings act.

4. Anthropocentric Reformism

Anthropocentrism believes that humans are the most significant entity in the Universe.Thus, nature only has instrumental value to us, and all natural resources should be managed to benefit humans even if this aim may be achieved at the expense of the interests of other species (Mazzotta andKline, 1995).

The philosophic root of anthropocentrism can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophy. Aristotle distinguishes three fundamental activities of life based on three standards: nutrition, sensation, and thinking. Aristotle agrees that plants have souls but holds that they do not have sensations and desires (as cited in Sorabji, 1974). Aristotle is criticized by some for his human-centered perspective. Peter Singer points out that Aristotle regards nature as a hierarchy in which those with less reasoning ability only exist for the sake of those with more reasoning (Ducharme, 2014). The Renaissance inthe 14th-16thcenturies also celebrated the value of human beings and pushed human-centered notion to another level. Kant (2011), for example, maintained that only rational beings alone have moral worth.

As early anthropocentrism faced challenges arising from environmental crisis, modern anthropocentrists reformed their theories. American environmental philosophers Borton and botanist Murdy are two representatives of modern anthropocentrism. Norton categorizes anthropocentrism into strong anthropocentrism and weak anthropocentrism, based on ‘felt preference’ and ‘considered preference.’ ‘Felt preference’ refers to need-oriented or desire-oriented choices made by human without any consideration of possible consequences, while ‘considered preference’ is made through rational thinking. Norton supports weak anthropocentrism and holds that once this value is adopted, any nature-destructive behavior will be considered immoral. Murdy builds his arguments from the perspective of biological evolution. Referring to Darwinism, he maintains that anthropocentrism is justifiable because human beings have a special place in nature (Wang, 2014).

5.    Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics is ultimately about extending moral consideration. When certain objects have intrinsic value, they should be treated with respect for their own sake and their rights should not be overridden without reason. Animal rights advocates strive to extend moral status to animals, bio-centrists to some or the whole biological system, and eco-centrists to the whole ecosystem.

Peter Singer and Tom Reganare two representatives of animal right advocates. Singer’s work, Animal Liberation, has great influence on leaders of modern animal liberation movements. Singer follows utilitarianism from Bentham to analyze this issue. According to utilitarianism, human should maximize happiness and minimize pain. He argues that animals’ ability to suffer is one of the reasons why we should care about them. Singer does not seek granting equal human rights to animals, but he holds that they deserve equal moral consideration (Singer, 2002). Tom Regan criticizes utilitarianism, because maximum happiness may only benefit someone at the expense of pain of others. Everyone is the experiencing subject of life and thus has intrinsic value (Regan, 1987).

Biocentrism is founded on Darwin’s theories, and ecocentrism originates from Aldo Leopold’s land ethics (Mazzotta and Kline, 1995). Biocentrism presumes that we should include all individual living entities in our moral considerations. Biocentrists hold that all living things have an instinct to survive and keep wholeness of life (Sarkar, 2012). Taylor, a representative scholar of biocentrism, insists on ‘life-principle.’ All living objects have the desire to survive, so those with life deserves moral concern. Taylor (1981) holds that humans do not have responsibilities towards rivers as those we have toward fish and plants. Eco-centrism goes further to defend the interests of non-biological objects such as rocks, mountains and rivers in the sphere (Sarkar, 2012). Eco-centrists emphasize the interconnection among different natural elements. They maintain that the value of different eco-elements is granted by nature, not humans. A major representative of eco-centrism is Aldo Leopold. In his book ASand CountyAlmanac, Leopold (2001) holds that land is not the property of human. Rather, it is a community including soils, waters, plants, and animals. Another influential philosopher is Holmes Rolston (1988) who develops Land Ethics into a system. He believes all animate lives interact, so any species that exists in the evolving history is an important part of a generic lineage.   

6. Radical Ecology

Zimmerman’s third category includes deep ecology, social ecology, and ecofeminism.  These theories are “radical” because they maintain they have found the origin of environmental problems, and they try to promote social changes and paradigm shifts accordingly(Mazzotta andKline, 1995).

In 1972, Naess coined the terms ‘deep ecology’ and ‘shallow ecology’ to juxtapose what he regarded as two opposing approaches for problematizing and responding to the ecological crisis. The objective of the shallow ecology movement is only to fight against pollution and resource depletion. But deep ecology supports biospherical egalitarianism and defends local autonomy and decentralization (Naess, 1973). Deep ecology seeks to recognise the underlying and co-evolving causes of ecocultural unsustainability, while shallow ecology demand more modest reforms. Shallow education treats the symptoms of ecocultural unsustainability, but leaves the underlying causal structure unchanged (Glasser, 2011). Naess’s work characterizes deep ecology as an international, grassroots social and political movement. He believes that human should go beyond their ‘ego’ and ‘self’ in society to form an ‘ecological self.’ The ultimate aim of environmental protection is for humans’ self-actualization.

Social ecologists explore hierarchy and domination in culture, and ecofeminists criticize the patriarchy in these hierarchies (Kheel, 1991).Spretnak (1990) maintains that culture is both the problem and the solution, both the curse and the hope. Bookchin (2007), the founder of social ecology, holds that ecological problems stem from social problems. The fundamental reason is the anti-ecological tendency in social economy, politics and culture. Tackling all these problems must depend on social movements. The capitalist system is immoral for it develops at all costs. Warren (1990), an influential ecofeminist, points out that there are historical, symbolic and theoretical connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature. Women and nature give birth to and take care of lives, but both of them suffer from oppression. Ecofeminists believe there is a conceptual framework behind that. Ecofeminism holds that the dynamics behind the dominance of male over female are the key to comprehending every expression of patriarchal culture with its hierarchical, militaristic, mechanistic, and industrialist forms. ‘A feminist ethics must be anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-naturist and opposed to any "ism" which presupposes or advances a logic of domination’ (p. 139). They advocate that women should play an important role in environmental movements because in this way they are fighting against the very root leading to oppression of nature and women.

7.    Conclusion

In summary, environmental philosophy, which is a broad concept that covers ‘environmental ethics’, studies the moral status of and the relationship among humans, nature and the environment. Environmental philosophy stepped into the spotlight in 1960s as many natural crises prompted people to reflect on it at that time. According to the subjects that deserve moral concern and the reasons why people should care about these subjects, Zimmerman (1998) categories related theories into three kinds: anthropocentric reformism, environmental ethics, and radical ecology. 

Anthropocentric reformism ultimately believes that the benefit of human beings is the only criterion for taking action. Environmental ethics extends moral concern to animals, organismor even the whole ecological system.Radicalecologyholds that only by eradicating oppression rooted in the culture can we achieve bio-spherical egalitarianism. These theories are the bases for different attitudestowards nature. For better addressing the environmental issue, it is important to understand rationales behind people’s behaviors.

8.    References 

Agar, N. (2001). Life's Intrinsic Value: Science, Ethics, and Nature. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bookchin, M. (2007). Social Ecology and Communalism. Edinburgh: AK Press.

Brennan, A. (ed.). (1995). The Ethics of theEnvironment.Hants: Dartmouth.

Brennan, A., & Lo, Y. (2010). Understanding Environmental Philosophy. Durham: Acumen.

De Laplante, K. (2006). Can You Teach Environmental Philosophy Without Being an 

Environmentalist. InPalmer, C. (Ed.), Teaching Environmental Ethics (pp. 48-62). Boston: Brill.

DesJardins, J. (2006). Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy (4th ed.). Belmont, CL.: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Ducharme, A. (2014). Aristotle and the Dominion of Nature. Environmental Ethics36(2), 203-214.

Gallagher, C. L. (1997). The Movement to Create an Environmental Bill of Rights: From Earth Day, 1970 to the Present. Fordham Environmental Law Journal9(1), 107-154. 

Glasser, H. (2011). Naess's Deep Ecology: Implications for the Human Prospect and Challenges for the Future. Inquiry, 54(1), 52-77

Kant, I. (2011). Rational Beings Alone Have Moral Worth. Food Ethics, 10-12.

Kheel, M. (1991).Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology: Reflections on Identity and Difference. Trumpeter8(2).

Klaver, I. J. (2007). The Future of Environmental Philosophy. Ethics & the Environment12(2), 128-130.

Leopold, A. (2001). A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation. New York (NY): Oxford University Press.

Mazzotta, M., & Kline, J. (1995).Environmental Philosophy and the Concept of Nonuse Value. Land Economics, 71(2), 244-249. 

Naess, A. (1973). The Shallow and the Deep, Long-range Ecology Movement. A Summary, Inquiry16, pp. 95–100. 

Palmer, C. (2006). Teaching Environmental Ethics. Boston: Brill.

Palmer, C., McShane, K., and Sandler, R. (2014). Environmental Ethics. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 39, 419-442.

Regan, T. (1987). The Case for Animal Rights. Advances in Animal Welfare Science 1986/87. 179-189. 

Rolston, H. (1988). Environmental Ethics: Duties to and Values in the Natural World (Ethics and action). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.                                 

Sarkar, S. (2012). Environmental Philosophy: From Theory to Practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Singer, P. (2002). Animal Liberation (1st Ecco pbk. ed.). New York (NY): Ecco.                        

Sorabji, R. (1974). Body and Soul in Aristotle. Philosophy49(187), 63-89. 

Spretnak, C. (1990). Ecofeminism: Our Roots and Flowering. Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, 3-14.

Taylor, P. W. (1981). The Ethics of Respect for Nature. Environmental Ethics3(3), 197-218.

Wang Z. (2014). Environmental Philosophy - Environmental Ethics Interdisciplinary research (2nd ed.). (In Chinese). Shanghai: Shanghai Educational Press. 

Warren, K. (1990). The power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism. Environmental Ethics, 12(2), 125.

Zimmerman, M., & Callicott, J. (1998). Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 

About the Author

XU Wanting

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


How “Paryavaran Mitra” Reinforces ESD in schools in India: A Case Study

By Shalini Bhorkar

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Practical Implementation of ESD Curriculum

4. Analysis

5. Conclusion

6. References

7. Notes

8. About the Author

1. Introduction

The importance India has always placed in the environment and its conservation can be seen in many of its age-old religious scriptures, traditions, and in the incorporation of environmental protection as a fundamental duty in the Indian constitution drafted in 1950 (NCERT). In 1972, at the United Nations’ first global conference on environment, the then Indian Prime Minister delivered a speech linking deteriorating environment with poverty (Toner & Meadowcroft, 2009). Following that, several programmes were planned as part of the government’s efforts toward spreading knowledge of Environmental Education (EE) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). EE has occupied a central focus in the Indian national curriculum from the time it was introduced in schools in 1986, leading up to its inclusion as a compulsory subject by the Supreme Court of India in 1991 (Banga Chhokar, 2010). However, like other subjects that follow an ‘examination-oriented curriculum’ and one-way ‘classroom teaching’ (Tilak, 2003, p. 375), EE lacked experiential learning. For a subject like EE, however, a more constructivist way of learning is paramount to bring about any actual results (CEE; Schweisfurth, 2011). In order to reinforce the EE curriculum with activity-based projects, Paryavaran Mitra (hereafter referred to as PM when referring to both the programme and the participants), meaning "Friends of Environment”, was launched in 2010 by a national-level institution, Centre for Environment Education (CEE) in partnership with the Indian government’s Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and a private organisation, ArcellorMittal. This entry chronicles the procedures undertaken by PM to make EE curriculum bring about actual change, and concludes with a discussion of the adherence of this programme to some prominent ESD theories.

2. Background

PM was established with the primary objective of providing a ‘local-specific, practical and activity-based’ (Bodzin, Klein, & Weaver, 2010, p.67) approach to give fruition to the EE and ESD curriculum prescribed by the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) of 2005. Envisaging the need for the practical implementation of EE and ESD topics beginning right at the grassroots level in India, PM set up an ambitious plan. Spread out over a period of three school years, this sustainability and climate change education programme aims to reach out to 20 million students from Grades 6 to 8, encompassing 200,000 schools in 626 districts across India. In order to ensure its reach to every part of this diverse country, the programme is offered in 15 different languages. CEE planned a hands-on approach involving the entire school community including educators, parents, and the local community, in not only raising awareness and building necessary skills but also by giving them a chance to bring about change originating in their own microcosm. The multi-pronged initiatives ensure effectiveness right from the stage of conception to execution by providing necessary technical and logistic support throughout the entire programme.

3. Practical Implementation of EE and ESD Curriculum

The implementation process kickstarts with the voluntary registration of the school as a “PM School”. This ensures that the school gets all the necessary support from CEE in the form of teacher handbooks, student booklets, and continuous guidance. The teacher handbook has ideas for projects based on the NCF syllabus to help teachers supplement their lessons with action projects. The handbook explains the paramount role of the teacher as a facilitator in bringing about a change in the mindsets, which is essential for the successful implementation of the projects. The handbook provides step-by-step instructions right from identification of an issue, to planning the process and achieving the outcomes. Teachers and students act collectively in choosing a topic most suitable to their social, economic, topographical, ecological, and cultural context. Detailed case studies have been included in the handbook for the teachers to get a complete picture of how the projects may be executed. The student booklets provide a menu of “Action Ideas” and offer guidance on gaining practical knowledge relevant to the local surroundings and enlisting help from the local community. They also help in evaluating the changes at the end of the project and preparing “PM report cards”.

Keeping in mind the regional diversity of India, the projects are classified into five themes for PMs to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability in their own spheres of influence. They act through class activities and action projects on the topic chosen from one of these themes. While class activities involve the entire class in activities such as growing plants in the school garden and saving electricity in the classroom, action projects require planned and concerted efforts and involve more comprehensive planning for implementation of projects over a period of time. Table 1 gives a broad idea of the themes and a few examples of related class activities and actions projects that have been carried out.

Table 1  Class Activities and Action Projects

Table 1 Class Activities and Action Projects

CEE also has tie-ups with several NGOs across India. These NGOs and the local CEE office offer guidance and assistance to the educators and students during the projects. The projects are well-documented by way of photographs, videos, scrapbooks, and interviews with the people involved. The actual changes to the environment are recorded and reports are generated to be later submitted to the local CEE agency for evaluations. Best practices and lesson plans are shared in the PM newsletter and learning materials and videos are uploaded on the website for use as references. This includes materials on the five themes stated above as well as other specific themes such as climate change and low-carbon lifestyles. CEE also organises campaigns and contests to commemorate events such as Earth Day, World Water Day, and International Biodiversity Day. Regular workshops are held for training teachers and sharing action ideas. Awards are given out annually to students, teachers and schools for exemplary work across the various themes and for introducing sustainability as a way of life in the community.

4. Analysis

As discussed above, PM’s work in India’s schools aligns well with some prominent theories for ESD and EE. These include Vare and Scott’s (2007) ESD1/ESD2 framework, critical pedagogy of place, and action theory. Based on Vare and Scott’s (2007) approaches towards ESD, ESD1 is a type of education that leads to immediate changes in the environment resulting from one’s learning and actions, whereas ESD2 stresses the importance of critical thinking leading to lifelong learning. While most of the tangible results of the PM projects fall under the category of ESD1, the learning that it generates is not limited to the participants but includes the people impacted by the changes brought upon them as a consequence of the projects. This leads to new perspectives that could be categorised as ESD2 and are likely to result in further changes in the environment even after the cessation of the projects. Moreover, the teacher’s handbook produced by the environmentalists, when used in conjunction with the EE syllabus prepared by the educationists, enable the teachers to think critically and identify issues in their local environment. The steps in the process towards implementation of the PM projects necessitate navigating through the challenges in the path leading to the desired outcomes, thereby utilizing both ESD1 and ESD2 knowledge and experience.  In this sense, the roles played by ESD1 and ESD2 in the PM programme are truly interdependent and complementary (Vare & Scott, 2007).

Critical pedagogy of place emphasises the links between ‘environment, education and culture’ and the essentiality of considering the ‘social and ecological contexts’ (Gruenewald, 2003, p. 10) in EE. The Indian curriculum, though detailed in content, prescribes the same standard syllabus for students across the length and the breadth of a country as diverse as India (NCERT). The PM programme strives to accentuate the ‘local knowledge’ (Dyer et al., 2004, p. 45) of educators. It fulfils the aims of critical pedagogy of place by guiding school communities to think about place-specific issues pertaining to the local context. PM endeavours to complement EE by advocating students to study their local environment, build relationships with the communities and revive traditional practices that help in conserving and transforming the environments. As a result of the awareness created amongst the PMs of their own ecological surroundings and actions required towards betterment of these surroundings, their objectives go much beyond achieving the curricular targets. The PM programme has successfully identified the need of developing EE that is entirely dependent ‘on one’s social and geographical position’ (Gruenewald, 2003, p. 6).

Activity theory propounds that as individuals take part in an activity to bring about a change in their environment, they themselves undergo changes in the process of their learning and working together (Krasny & Roth, 2010). While the focus of PM programme is to bring about a change in their immediate environment, the magnitude of their projects often involves the collective efforts of people within and outside the school community. The PMs need to interact with each other and their peers and elders in the school as well as with the community, government bodies and NGOs. Activity theory highlights these interrelationships during the entire period of their collaboration and the simultaneous changes occurring in the stakeholders and their surroundings. As the PMs continue to get involved in more and more projects, they also come to understand the correlations between the themes under which they categorise their projects, bringing about a deeper understanding of their activities.

5. Conclusion

This entry has focused on the constructivist learning methods of the PM programme in increasing the effectiveness of EE/ESD learning in India, a country that still predominantly follows the “chalk and talk” method of pedagogy. Activity based learning itself is currently at a very nascent stage in India and the issue of evaluation of impact and success of this programme requires much further discussion and analysis. However, the way the PM programme connects with the various dominant theories in the field of ESD is a clear indication of the robustness and strength of this programme. The role of PM in making communities “environmentally literate” (Bodzin et al., 2010, p. 13) across the whole of India by helping them understand their local ecosystem better is irrefutable. Their multipronged approaches begin with facilitating an understanding of the geological terrain, biosphere, culture and traditions and the interrelationships between the different components of the ecosystem and finally learning to make these components sustainable. They extend their learning to distinguish between good and bad practices and thereby initiate environmentally friendly ways of living. The PM programme thus strives to provide a holistic learning experience to the network of 20 million young leaders from schools, thereby building the commitment and potential to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability in their spheres of influence in the coming years.

6. References

Banga Chhokar, K. (2010). Higher Education and Curriculum Innovation for Sustainable Development in India. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education11(2), 141-152.

Bodzin, A., Klein, B. S., & Weaver, S. (Eds.). (2010). The Inclusion of Environmental Education in Science Teacher Education. Springer Science & Business Media.

Centre for Environment Education. (2011). Paryavaran Mitra Action towards Sustainability: Teacher’s Handbook. India: Centre for Environment Education.

CEE : Centre for Environment Education (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2016, from

Dyer, C., Choksi, A., Awasty, V., Iyer, U., Moyade, R., Nigam, N., Purohit, N., Shah, S., & Sheth, S. (2004). Knowledge for Teacher Development in India: The Importance of ‘Local Knowledge’ for In-service Education. International Journal of Educational Development 24(1), 39–52.

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place. Educational Researcher32(4), 3-12.

Krasny, M. E., & Roth, W. M. (2010). Environmental Education for Social–Ecological System Resilience: A Perspective from Activity Theory. Environmental Education Research16(5-6), 545-558.

NCERT: National Council Of Educational Research and Training.  (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2016, from

Paryavaran Mitra: Friends of Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2016, from

Schweisfurth, M. (2011). Learner-Centred Education in Developing Country Contexts: From Solution to Problem? International Journal of Educational Development31(5), 425-432.

Toner, G., & Meadowcroft, J. (Eds.). (2009). Innovation, Science, Environment 1987-2007: Special Edition: Charting Sustainable Development in Canada, 1987-2007. McGill-Queen's University Press. Retrieved from

Tilak, J. B. (2003). Education, Society, and Development: National and International Perspectives. New Delhi: APH Publishing.

Vare, P., & Scott, W. (2007). Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development1(2), 191-198.

7. Notes

1. The information provided in the first three sections of this entry have been obtained from the website of Paryavaran Mitra and from the CEE “Teacher’s Handbook”. It also draws on information from the videos uploaded on their website, including interviews with the director of Centre for Environment Education, India, Mr.Kartikeya Sarabhai. The author of this entry wishes to thank Mr.Prashant Moon, CEE India, for sending a copy of the “Teacher’s Handbook”, a resource which is available only to PM schools.

2. Although this PM programme was started almost 6 years ago, there is no record on their website of any comprehensive evaluation other than the preparation of the PM reports and recognition of exemplary work with awards. Therefore, this entry does not comment on the actual results of this programme so far. The activities of the PM, exemplary methods employed and the implications therein, especially against the backdrop of an educational system still largely lacking in activity-based learning, form the main focus of this entry.

3. Given the limited scope of the paper, the terms “ESD1”, “ESD2”, “critical pedagogy of place” and “activity theory” have only been broadly defined in section 3 of this entry.

About the Author

Shalini Bhorkar

MEd Student, The University of Hong Kong


Enhancing Education for Sustainable Development at Hong Kong Wetland Park

By Anonymous

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Education for Sustainable Development

3. Hong Kong Wetland Park

4. Challenges to Promoting ESD in HKWP

5. Recommendations for Teachers and HKWP

6. Concluding Remarks

7. References

8. Key Terms and Definitions

9. About the Author

1. Introduction

The Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP) displays biodiversity of the local wetland ecosystem to raise public awareness about wetland conservation and environment protection. The government considers HKWP as a facility for ecotourism, conservation, and education. The Park has a significant influence on environmental education, delivering over 700 guided tours to about 170,000 students just in 2014-2015 alone (HKWP, 2016a). This aim of this entry is to review some of the HKWP’s facilities from the angle of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) using Vare and Scott’s (2007) framework about teaching knowledge (ESD1) and skills (ESD2) in ESD.  The entry then argues that teachers’ adaptation of existing educational resources and HKWP’s advancement are crucial to harness the Park’s ESD potential to encourage social awareness, lifelong learning, and personal responsibility.

2. Education for Sustainable Development

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7 indicates that countries should ‘ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development’ (United Nations (UN), 2016a). Education is ‘indispensable to changing people’s attitudes so that they have the capacity to assess and address their sustainable development concerns’ (UN, 1993, Chapter 36). On this front, HKWP provides informal environmental education through engaging visitors in activities, with the following educational objectives (HKWP, 2016f):

  • to demonstrate the diversity of Hong Kong's wetland ecosystem and highlight the need to conserve it; and
  • to provide opportunities for education and public awareness.

In the formal education context, the Education Bureau (EDB) suggests schools develop ESD in three aspects: “awareness”, “action” and “attitudes” (EDB, 2010, p.2). “Awareness” concerns learners’ knowledge and skills of the environment. “Action” refers to the educational processes where learners make contact with nature. “Attitudes” involve the ‘values and judgement that affect behaviour’ (Curriculum Development Council (CDC), 1999, p.4). Site visit is a popular informal educational activity which complements formal learning about the three aspects (Guevara, 2009; CDC, 1999), and HKWP can thus supplement formal education with its habitats and educational resources (Guevara, 2009). Although not stated, HKWP's objectives and EDB's notion both contribute to SDGs 13 and 15, which aim for an improved awareness about and subsequent conservation actions for climate change, natural habitats, biodiversity as well as land and water ecosystems (UN, 2016b, 2016c). HKWP’s contribution to formal education and SDGs could be enhanced through implementing ESD with a more holistic view that does not only recognise “prescribed knowledge” (Sterling, 2004, p. 70) but also treasures what each learner ‘bring[s] to the learning experience’ (p. 70) such as rethinking and challenging existing social structures, educational values and public policies. 

Similarly, Vare and Scott (2007) observed that policymakers and government departments tend to focus on expert knowledge and prescribed actions instead of the need to promote learning as an outcome itself to achieve sustainability. To redress the balance, they suggest an ESD framework with two complementary approaches, ESD1 and ESD2. ESD1 promotes behavourial and cognitive changes informed by expert knowledge among the non-expert public for clearly defined sustainable issues (Vare & Scott, 2007). It considers learning as a means to acquire necessary knowledge and abilities to achieve sustainable development – learning for sustainable development (Vare & Scott, 2007). ESD2 promotes critical thinking about expert knowledge, and examining the ideas and contradictions relating to sustainable development (Vare & Scott, 2007). It considers learning an outcome in order to cope with the perpetually changing society and environment – learning as sustainable development (Vare & Scott, 2007). ESD1 and ESD2 are complementary to each other not only for promoting normative actions but also critically analysing and negotiating such actions. ESD1 combined with ESD2 could promotes open-end and lifelong learning in addition to prescribed knowledge and practical skills (Hopkins & McKeown, 2002).

3. Hong Kong Wetland Park

HKWP comprises a 10 ,00m2 visitor centre and a 60-hectare Wetland Reserve (the floor plan of Visitor Centre is at Figure 1 and the map of Wetland Reserve at Figure 2), and provides a diversity of educational programmes for different target groups.

Figure 1  Floor plan of Visitor Centre (HKWP, 2016c)

Figure 1 Floor plan of Visitor Centre (HKWP, 2016c)

Figure 2  Map of Wetland Reserve (HKWP, 2016d)

Figure 2 Map of Wetland Reserve (HKWP, 2016d)

The Wetland Reserve mainly includes habitats for waterbirds, such as mangroves, waterstreams and fishponds, with numerous walking paths and educational signage for visitors' access. The Visitor Centre includes themed exhibition galleries. Examples of HKWP’s educational facilities are (HKWP, 2016b, 2016h):

  • Wetlands at Work - the living fields display the origins of common agricultural products in daily life;
  • Stream Walk - it demonstrates a re-created stream habitat with an upland stream, middle reaches and an open water, with signs, specimen and replicas which introduce the local wildlife;
  • Mangrove Boardwalk - visitors can walk on floating boards to take a close look at the plants and animals inhabiting the mangroves, with introductory signs nearby;
  • Human Culture Gallery - visitors could play interactive games on-screen, watch videos and view exhibition displays to discover how wetland and natural resources are depicted and used in different cultures; and
  • Wetland Challenge Gallery - visitors could join a make-believe television centre that explores issues on wetland conservation along an imaginary river, discovering environmental threats due to human activities in the role of a reporter.

HKWP also provides educational programmes targeting students, teachers, and the general public. According to HKWP’s (2016e) website, visitors could “learn about the knowledge on wetlands in a vivid way, and appreciate the beauty of different wetland wildlife” (para. 1) through the activities and teaching resources also available online. On-site programmes include public lectures, guided visits, park ranger training, and teachers’ workshops while out-reach programmes include educational talks and lending educational display panels to schools (HKWP, 2016e). The types of programmes and their objectives are summarised in Table 1 (HKWP, 2016e).

Screenshot (419).png
Screenshot (420).png
Table 1  Educational Programmes at HKWP

Table 1 Educational Programmes at HKWP

4. Challenges to Promoting ESD in HKWP

To borrow from the Audit Commission’s (2011) words, HKWP might have conflicting practices ‘as a conservation, education and tourism facility’ (p.11), where the facilities may not be consistent with the knowledge and notions it promotes in terms of ESD1. One example is the vending machines advertising and selling bottled drinks while the exhibitions in the Visitor Centre emphasise the harm caused by relying on such products. Furthermore, most electronic displays and spotlights in the exhibitions function and use power even when there are no visitors viewing them, in contradiction to the Wetland Challenge Gallery focus on wetland conservation and reducing electricity use. Learners could be confused by the hidden assumptions demonstrated through such conflicting practices.

Furthermore, most exhibitions and educational programmes follow a limited, ESD1 approach, which presents scientific knowledge and technical solutions and actions to be pursued by individuals (Sterling, 2004; Vare & Scott, 2007). For example, the “Too Much from the Wild” section in Wetland Challenge Gallery displays various household products that exploit wetland resources and asks learners to change their daily behaviours (HKWP, 2016g). Such an arrangement might ignore other important human factors, however, such as ‘quality of life’ or ‘social need’ concerns (Robottom, 1983, p. 29). After all, sustainability cannot be achieved only through environment protection, as it is intertwined with other domains such as social justice, cultural diversity, and economic viability (UNESCO, 2014). Besides, while personal choices might make a difference to the existing environmental problems, they should not be reduced to only personal responsibility (Maniates, 2001). Exhibitions and programmes with ESD2 elements would enable learners to critically reflect on the knowledge and recommendations HKWP promotes and ‘make sound choices in the face of the inherent complexity and uncertainty of the future’ (Vare & Scott, 2007, p. 194).

Most educational programmes and Park facilities engage learners through observation and listening - learners are expected to consume knowledge about the environment. However, learners also need to go beyond the roles of bystanders and receivers of environmental knowledge to develop respect for and reflection on human life’s influence and interaction with nature (Fien, 1993). After all, they should not have the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude towards the environment after leaving HKWP. Fundamentally, a more engaging experience could harness the “action” and “attitudes” aspects suggested by EDB (2010) and serve as a foreground for reflecting on environment-related issues such as politics and economy (Gruenewald, 2003). In this connection, new initatives with ESD2 elements should enable learners ‘to continue learning after they leave school’ (Hopkins & McKeown, 2002, p.19), motivating a kind of lifelong learning that ‘involves issues that affect all, both young and old, … throughout life’ (Trorey, Cullingford, & Cooper, 1999, p. 195).

5. Recommendations for Teachers and HKWP

First, HKWP could organise regular inventory and exchange sessions such as meetings between learners and the Park management for discussion on the Park’s facilities and programmes which are related to the ESD1 knowledge and values. Learners could have the opportunities ‘to think critically and feel empowered to take responsibility’ (Vare & Scott, 2007, p. 194) through reviewing the elements of ESD1 in HKWP.  Furthermore, they could develop social and political literacy through discussing the practical limitations with the staff and even lobbying for recommendations, which are crucial elements for ESD2 (Trorey et al., 1999). HKWP could also encourage reflection on ‘what the sustainability lobby and government are telling [learners] to do’ (Vare & Scott, 2007, p. 196).

Second, to engage learners in long-term environment protection, HKWP could enhance its educational programmes with civic ecology practices requiring commitment of participants, advocacy, and social interaction, treating learning as an active process (Hogan, 2002; Boullion & Gomez, 2001). HKWP could allow more visitors to participate in the farming and maintenance work, for example, so that visitors taking the role of farmers and park rangers could reflect on the dilemmas in sustainable living and try innovative solutions (Beltram, Gerjevic, & Kebe, 2009; Vare & Scott, 2007), such as selecting pesticides and removing invasive species (Krasny, Lundholm, Shava, Lee, & Kobori, 2013). Aligned with social learning, structured educational activities where experienced staff and novice learners interact in a community of practice could provide scaffolding for learners to grow from ‘an observer … to a full or skilled participant’ (Krasny et al., 2013, p. 642). Such skilled participants then could make informed choices and innovations through recognising personal responsibility and necessary risks (Elliot, 1998).

HKWP and schools could more generally cooperate to enhance a volunteer programme to promote lifelong and life-wide responsibilities at different levels. ‘[ESD] brings together all the learning that a person does throughout life, in both formal and informal settings’ (Clarke, 2012, p. 34) and ‘volunteering and community involvement are … necessary’ (Trorey et al., 1999, p. 202). While participants receive professional training at HKWP, schools could provide such ESD2 experiences as debating and organising recycling and other ecological campaigns and activities in neighbourhoods, considering that ‘school grounds are … an excellent starting point’ (Trorey et al., 1999, 208) for nurturing lifelong commitment to environmental protection and recognition of citizenship.

6. Concluding Remarks

This entry serves to elaborate some possible pathways for enhancing both ESD1 and ESD2 through the HKWP. These recommendations may meet with some practical and technical barriers, however, as HKWP may need a culture of change in its established practices and staff literacy about ESD (Gough & Scott, 2001). Teachers of a particular subject may also be challenged by new initiatives which require collaboration across various subjects (Gough & Scott, 2001). While there is no universal solution for all, as Trorey et al. (1999) put it, the success of ESD lies ‘in the nature of personal commitment, and belief in its importance’ (p. 209). To this end, both teachers and HKWP may need to keep reflecting and innovating to ensure ESD is well in place in formal, informal, and lifelong learning.

7. References

Audit Commission. (2011). Report No. 57 of the Director of Audit: Management of the Hong Kong Wetland Park. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Beltram, G., Gerjevic, V. D., & Kebe L. (2009). Young People Acting for the Wise Use of Karst Wetlands in Slovenia. In P. B. Corcoran & P. M. Osano (Eds.), Young People, Education, and Sustainable Development: Exploring Principles, Perspectives, and Praxis (pp. 309-314). Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Boullion, L. M., & Gomez, L. M. (2001). Connecting School and Community with Science Learning: Real World Problems and School-Community Partnerships as Contextual Scaffolds. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 878-898.

Clarke, P. (2012). Education for Sustainability: Becoming Naturally Smart. London: Routledge.

Education Bureau (EDB). (2010). Education for Sustainable Development in Hong Kong Schools (EPSC Paper 08/10). Hong Kong: EDB.

Elliott, J. (1998). The Curriculum Experiment: Meeting the Challenge of Social Change. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Fien, J. (1993). Education for the Environment: Critical Curriculum Theorising and Environmental Education. Geelonng: Deakin University.

Gough, S. R., & Scott, W. A. H. (2001). Curriculum Development and Sustainable Development: Practices, Institutions and Literacies. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 33(2), 137-152. Doi: 10.1080/00131850120040528

Gruenewald, D. (2003). The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 3-12.

Guevara, J. (2009). Embedding Formal Education within the Contexts of Non-formal Education for Lifelong Learning and Sustainable Development. In P. F. Geinare (Ed.), Recent Trends in Life Long Education (pp. 101-110). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

CDC. (1999). The Guidelines on Environmental Education in Schools. Hong Kong: Education Department.

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016a). Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department Report (2014-2015): Nature Conservation. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016b). Exhibitions. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016c) Map of Visitor Centre. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016d). Map of Wetland Reserve. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016e). Learning at Wetland. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016f). Mission and Objective. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016g). Wetland Challenge. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hong Kong Wetland Park (HKWP). (2016h). Wetland Reserve. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Hogan, K. (2002). A Sociocultural Analysis of School and Community Setting as Sites for Developing Environmental Practitioners. Environmental Education Research, 8, 413-437.

Hopkins, C., & Mckeown, R. (1999). Education for Sustainable Development: An International Perspective. In D. Tilbury, R. B. Stevenson, J. Fien & D. Schreuder (Eds.), Education and Sustainability: Responding to a Global Challenge (pp 13-24). Gland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Krasny, M. E., Lundholm, C., Shava, S., Lee, E., & Kobori, H. (2013) Urban Landscapes as Learning Arenas for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Management. In T. Elmqvist, M. Fragkias, J. Goodness, B. Güneralp, P. J. Marcotullio, R. I. McDonald, S. Parnell, M. Schewenius, M. Sendstad, K. C. Seto & C. Wilkinson (Eds.), Urbanization, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Challenges and Opportunities (pp 629-664). Dordrecht: Springer.

Maniates, M. F. (2001). Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World? Global Environmental Politics, 1(3), 31-52.

Robottom, I. (1983). Science: A Limited whole for Environmental Education? The Australian Science Teachers’ Journal, 29(1), 27-31.

Sterling, S. (2004). The Learning of Ecology, or the Ecology of Learning? In W. Scott & S. Gough (eds.), Key Issues in Sustainable Development and Learning: A Critical Review. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Trorey, G., Cullingford, C., & Cooper, B. (1999) Lifelong Learning for a Sustainable Future. In P. Oliver (Ed.), Lifelong and Continuing Education: What is a Learning Society (pp 195-214). Brookfield: Ashgate/Arena.

UNESCO. (2014). Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

United Nations (UN). (1993). Agenda 21: The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio. New York: United Nations.

United Nations (UN). (2016a). Goal 4: Ensure Inclusive and Quality Education for All and Promote Lifelong Learning. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

United Nations (UN). (2016b). Goal 13: Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its Impacts. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

United Nations (UN). (2016c). Goal 15: Sustainably Manage Forests, Combat Desertification, Halt and Reverse Land Degradation, Halt Biodiversity Loss. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from

Vare, P., & Scott, W. (2007). Learning for Change: Exploring Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 1(2), 191-198.

8. Key Terms and Definition

ESD1/ESD2: A complementary set of approaches to ESD which stresses the importance of both knowledge and skills for sustainable development.

Wetland: A land area seasonally or permanently saturated with fresh or saltwater, forming a distinctive ecosystem with high biodiversity.

Civic Ecology: A field of study that focuses on the relationship about public participation and its effects in environmental protection.

About the Author


MEd, The University of Hong Kong


Food Waste in Hong Kong

By Sun Yi Fei (Maggie)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Food Waste on Hong Kong

4. Reducing Food Waste in Hong Kong Schools

5. Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign

6. Solutions and Recommendations

7. Conclusion

8. References

9. About the Author

1. Introduction

Human beings cannot live without food. However, about 795 million people (approximately one in nine people) in the world do not have enough food for a healthy, active life (World Food Programme (WFP), 2015). On the other hand food waste in recent years has become a serious issue all over the world. As indicated by Gustavsson, Cederberg and Sonesson (2011), the per capita food loss and waste worldwide is more than one thousand kilograms. Due to the rapid growth of the world population, the issue is becoming more urgent. Therefore, there is a crucial need for greater awareness about the matter and proper solutions to improve the situation. This entry will explore the problem of food waste in Hong Kong, with a focus on government policies, education initiatives, and what the public can do.

2. Background

Chancellor (2010, p. 4) defines food waste as ‘all the food we do not eat’. As pointed out by Galanakis (2015, p. 7), food waste and food loss occur at various stages, including production, processing, retailing, and consumption (see Figure 1). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2015) reports multiple causes of food waste. They include rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage, buying and/or cooking practices. Other possible factors can be bad weather, mechanical damage, unnecessarily high standards for quality, poor facilities, transportation, peeling, packaging, expiry periods, and lack of awareness, among others. According to FAO (2013), food waste has a number of negative impacts on land, water, climate and biodiversity. The situation can further lead to pollution, loss of arable land, misuse of water, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Food waste, therefore, demands immediate solutions.

Figure 1.  Stages of food supply chain at which food waste and food loss occur (FAO, 2013)

Figure 1. Stages of food supply chain at which food waste and food loss occur (FAO, 2013)

3. Food Waste in Hong Kong

As a city with a dense population, Hong Kong is facing a severe problem of food waste. According to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) of Hong Kong, in 2012, 9,278 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) was disposed of at landfills every day. About 36% (around 3,337 tons) of this waste was food waste. The food waste disposal is equivalent to throwing away the weight of approximately 250 double-decker buses every 24 hours, or nearly 100,000 double-decker buses every year (Environment Bureau (EB), 2014). The major reasons for food waste in Hong Kong are the low price of food, large portions served, people being too selective about food, people feeling obliged to order more than enough when treating others at restaurants to not lose face, and people not storing food properly (FOE, 2015).

In addition, the EPD (2015) states that ‘the amount of food waste from Commercial and Industry (C&I) sectors has been increasing, from 400 tons in 2002 to 1,003 tons in 2013’. The figure is steadily growing, threatening the ecological and environmental balance. Therefore, greater public attention and effective solutions are in urgent demand.

The government hopes to cut Hong Kong's food waste by 10 per cent in three years. In order to reach this goal, the government has put several solutions into practice. These solutions include mobilizing the community, promoting food waste separation, recycling, treating separated and non-separated food waste, and final disposal (EB, 2014). Moreover, EPD commissioned a pilot food waste composting plant in Kowloon Bay in 2008, and cooperated with the commercial and industrial sectors to conduct food waste recycling and treatment to produce useful compost (EPD, 2005). Additionally the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) ‘subsidized Home Ownership Scheme and private housing estates to organize education programs on food waste reduction and to install treatment facilities for food waste recycling’ (ISD, 2013). In the following sections, the Hong Kong government’s cooperation with schools to reduce food waste is explored.

4. Reducing Food Waste in Hong Kong Schools

Early childhood education for sustainability, an emerging field, recognizes that early learning is helpful for shaping children’s environmental beliefs, knowledge, and actions (UNESCO, 2008). It is, therefore, advisable to start teaching children to appreciate food at this stage of development. It is especially important to do this at school because, as the FOE’s (2015) findings indicate, ‘10% of commercial and industrial food waste comes from schools, with a quantity of 15,000 tons or over 30 million meal boxes a year’.

To address this problem, the government issued guidelines on meal arrangements in schools. In these guidelines, the word ‘environment’ and the phrase ‘environmentally friendly’ appear more than ten times, emphasizing the importance of being environmentally friendly (Education Bureau (EDB), 2015). Some of the most important guidelines include: promoting environmentally friendly eating habits; encouraging parents to prepare environmentally friendly lunch boxes; promoting responsibility to reduce waste; encouraging application for Community Waste Recovery Projects (Green Lunch) under ECF for installing kitchen facilities, kitchen furniture, dish washing facilities, utensils, and electrical/water installation works; supporting schools to design an environmentally friendly way to recycle containers; asking schools to only consider lunch suppliers that take account of environment protection and so on (EDB, 2015).

Additionally, the Education Bureau issued Circular No. 18/2009: Green lunch in school. Its objective is to encourage schools to use reusable food containers and cutlery; to facilitate students to use reusable cutlery; to portion out food in a flexible manner; to monitor the provision of green lunch on an ongoing basis; and to apply for funding support from ECF for switching from using disposable lunch containers to central portioning of lunch at schools (EDB, 2009). The EB also (2015) developed guidelines on how to promote green lunch in schools, to equip schools and school lunch suppliers with more information on how to be environmentally friendly. The EB (2015) concluded that from the waste reduction perspective, Central/On-Site Portioning is more desirable than Off-Site Portioning, because all the utensils are reusable, and the amount of food can be adjusted on request. Local organizations such as Friends of the Earth, Green Power and Food for Good also provide seminars, workshops, and visits for schools and students. With supports from different departments and organizations, schools can reduce food waste.

Although the process of avoiding food waste in schools is rewarding, the EB has (2015) pointed out some difficulties that can impede the process of implementation of these schemes. First, lunch suppliers may increase the prices if they use lunch boxes that are made from metal or other durable materials, as such materials are more expensive. Second, schools must be spacious enough to accommodate a canteen and the facilities needed for reheating food and washing dishes. Consequently, the lunch price may be higher since lunch suppliers will need to invest in such facilities. Additionally Epochhk (2008) points out that the guidelines are vague, lack a detailed directive, and do not put any constraints on schools and lunch providers. 

5. Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign

Figure 2.  Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign Advertisement (Food Wise Hong Kong, 2013)

Figure 2. Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign Advertisement (Food Wise Hong Kong, 2013)

The Food Wise Hong Kong Steering Committee was set up in 2012 to ‘drive leadership in food waste avoidance and reduction through working with leaders in this field in order to formulate and oversee the implementation of the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign’ (MyGovHK, 2015). It is chaired by the Secretary for the Environment and is composed of members from relevant sectors including catering, hotels, retail, property management, education, academia, green groups, food recipient organizations, and other concerned government departments (Food Wise Hong Kong, 2013). The objectives of the campaign are:

1. Promote awareness in the community of the waste management problems in Hong Kong.

2. Coordinate efforts within the Government and public institutions to lead by example in food waste reduction.

3. Instill behavioral changes in the community at individual and household levels that will help reduce food waste generation.

4. Draw up and promote good practices on food waste reduction of commercial and industrial establishments.

5. Encourage leadership in the commercial, industrial and community sectors to take action and share best practices.

6. Facilitate food donation between the establishments with surplus food with charitable organizations in the community (Food Wise Hong Kong, 2013).

The committee frequently holds activities and events including promotion of food waste reduction schemes in different districts; workshops for households, shopping malls, hospitals, NGOs, social services, schools and higher education institutions; a Reduce Food Waste Competition; sharing sessions; and food recycling. The campaign takes different parties and stakeholders into consideration, and works hard to raise public awareness of their responsibilities for reducing food waste. Since its launch in 2013, food waste in Hong Kong has decreased from 38% of total MSW (about 3627 tons per day) in 2013 to 37% (about 3619 tons per day) in 2014 (EPD, 2015).

Some critics identify weaknesses of the campaign, however. Woo (2014, p. 40) argues that the ‘Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign mainly relied on the moral motives of Hong Kong residents…Hong Kong people are highly motivated by money…waste charging can have more conspicuous effects because it provides suitable financial incentives’. Woo also claims that having environmental knowledge is not enough. Hong Kong residents should be reminded of food waste source reduction continually and implement daily source reduction habits. Furthermore, the Food Wise Hong Kong Steering Committee can provide a collaboration platform for various stakeholders in the medium term, which can share successful food waste reduction experience, share food waste recycling facilities, and help each other overcome leftover reduction difficulties (Food Wise, 2013). Apple Daily (2015) reports that among 198 vendors from 18 markets, 66% did not participate in Food Wise because they did not know about the campaign or how to get involved. To improve the campaign, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be invited to assist the Committee. 

6. Solutions and Recommendations

To reduce food waste, the stages at which food waste and food loss occur should be understood (see Figure 1). Workshops for stakeholders should cover such topics as regulations and standards; vehicles for transportation and storage of food; and methods to calculate how much food to purchase. In restaurants, food servers can explain to customers portion sizes so they can make informed decisions about the amount of food they order. Penalties can be set for wasting food. Shopkeepers can remind customers of expiry dates and storage conditions of products. After shopping, people can keep receipts that can remind them of what food they have bought so they finish it. Supermarkets, restaurants, and markets can work with charity groups to give food to those in need.

School is a great place for promoting food waste reduction because children shape our future and can convey the ideas to their family members. More should be done in schools in Hong Kong. The government can design brochures for parents and videos for children. Some students eat less than others, so there should be lunch boxes with smaller portions for them. If students have lunch in canteens, additional portion should only be given on request.

Students should be encouraged to conserve food in everyday life. The procedures of processing food and the consequences of wasting food should be taught. Schools can have field trips where students, teachers, and students’ parents can experience the process of planting and harvesting. Competitions for designing posters and coining slogans, and for rewarding individuals or classes that waste the least food can be held to increase student motivation. The government can offer more support to schools by providing funding for designing relevant teaching materials,.

To raise public awareness, social media can be utilized. People can be encouraged to take pictures of their empty plates after meals and post them on their social media profiles with hashtags. Some prizes could be given to those who upload the most creative pictures or those whose pictures are liked and shared by the largest number of people.

Although the Hong Kong government has been trying to decrease food waste, it is hard to change people’s deep-seated cultural ideas about food. Researchers can explore this problem in order to minimize food waste.

7. Conclusion

Food waste is an urgent matter that requires everyone’s attention. The Hong Kong government has realized the seriousness of food waste and has taken actions to fix the problem. How schools are assisted and some programs for reducing food waste in Hong Kong were discussed in this entry. The government, schools, and other institutions and individuals can do much more to address this issue. 


Chancellor, D. (2010). Food waste. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.

Education Bureau (EDB). (2009). Education Bureau Circular No. 18/2009: Green Lunch in School. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Education Bureau (EDB). (2015). Guidelines on Meal Arrangements in Schools. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Huantuan bianyin wushan zhinan feng zhengfu wuneng [Environmental Organizations Design and Hand Out Guidelines and Mock the Government’s Incapability]. (2008). Epoch Times. Retrieved from

Environment Bureau (EB). (2014). A Food Waste & Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Environmental Protection Department (EPD). (2005). Problems & Solutions. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Environmental Protection Department (EPD). (2015a). Guideline on How to Promote Green Lunch in Schools. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Environmental Protection Department (EPD). (2015b). Problems & Solutions. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Environmental Protection Department (EPD). (2015c). Waste Data and Statistics. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Retrieved from

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2013). Food WastageFootprints. Retrieved from

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Friends of the Earth. (2015). All about Food Waste. Retrieved from

Food Wise Hong Kong. (2013). About Us. Retrieved from

Galanakis, C. M. (2015). Food Waste Recovery: Processing Technologies and Industrial Techniques. London: Academic Press.

Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., & Sonesson, U. (2011). Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Rome: FAO.

Information Services Department. (2013). Reduction and Treatment of Food Waste. Retrieved from

Lam, Y. M. (2012). Partnership for Sustainable Waste Management: A Case Study of the Food Waste Recycling Partnership Scheme in Hong Kong. (Unpublished Master's Dissertation). Hong Kong: The University of Hong Kong.

MyGovHK. (2015). Food Wise. Retrieved from

Woo, P. K. (2014). Food Waste in Hong Kong: A Study on Reduction. (Unpublished Master's dissertation). The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

World Food Programme (WFP). (2015). Hunger Statistics. Retrieved from

About the Author

Sun Yi Fei (Maggie)

MEd, The University of Hong Kong



Environmental Education in the Liberal Studies Curriculum in Hong Kong

By Chiu Wing-yin (Bernice)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Introduction and Definition of Environmental Education

3. Environmental Education in Hong Kong Secondary Schools

4. Environmental Education in Liberal Studies Curriculum

1. Liberal Studies Curriculum

2. Liberal Studies Curriculum and Environmental Education

5. Recommendations

6. References

7. Appendix

8. About the Author

1. Introduction

The growing awareness about environmental degradation makes educators see Environmental Education (EE) as an essential strategy. However, many are concerned with the effectiveness of EE in schools (e.g. Fien & Yencken, 2003;  Lee, 1995; Stimpson, 1997; Tsang & Lee, 2014). This entry seeks to explore the development of EE in Hong Kong and analyze the Liberal Studies curriculum to determine its effectiveness. It starts by defining environmental education and giving its historical overview. After that, the entry introduces the Liberal Studies curriculum in Hong Kong and the place of EE in it.  

2. Introduction and Definition of Environmental Education

Tsang (2003) defines Environmental Education as  

the process of developing an environmentally literate, competent, and dedicated citizenry which actively strives to resolve value conflicts in the man-environment relationship, in a manner which is ecologically and humanistically sound in order to reach the superordinate goal of a homeostasis between quality of life and quality of environment.

The major components of EE include “information”, “awareness”, “concern”, “attitude and beliefs”, “education and training” which, according to Hawthorne (1999), are interconnected with each other.

The European Commission (1997) and the United Nations (1993) highlight the importance of environmental education to environmental sustainability. The European Commission (1997) states that environmental education is ‘essential to enhance levels of awareness and understanding of the key issues at the core of the sustainability imperative, promote attitude change, and modify pattern of behavior.’  Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 (UN, 1993) points out that

Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues…..Both formal and non-formal education are indispensable to changing people’s attitudes so that they have the capacity to assess and address their sustainable development concerns.

In December 2002, the United Nations proclaimed the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014. It emphasized that ‘education is an indispensable element for achieving sustainable development’ (UN, 2002). Environmental education can be one of the ways to address environmental problems.

It is, however, not common for countries to make environmental education a core and compulsory subject in the curricula. Instead, only elements of environmental education are incorporated into different subjects. Hong Kong is a typical case. The rest of the paper discusses environmental education in Hong Kong and analyzes its Liberal Studies curriculum.

3. Environmental Education in Hong Kong Secondary Schools

The Education Bureau (EDB) implemented environmental education in the school curriculum for the first time in 1999. The Guidelines on Environmental Education in Schools are used to promote the concept of sustainable development in schools.

The EDB’s plan for education for sustainable development (ESD) focuses on three major aspects: awareness, action, and attitudes. The EDB suggests the schools in Hong Kong adopt a cross-curricular, whole school, and action-oriented approach in the promotion of ESD. Instead of introducing an individual subject on environmental education, the EDB chose to gradually incorporate the elements of sustainable development and environmental education into different subjects. With the guidelines from the government, Hong Kong schools were able to implement environmental education in different ways and with different styles.

Some environmentalists and concerned groups found that the effectiveness of environmental education was questionable due to the variation in the approaches, however. For example, Fien and Yencken (2003) conclude that ‘there is a tendency for environmental education to be marginalized by most teachers and its practice is piecemeal.’ They describe the present pattern of environmental education as ‘short-term, often ill-conceived and unsystematic.’ 

Liberal Studies, introduced in 2009 as a compulsory subject, is one of the most relevant to environmental education in Hong Kong. John Lee (as cited in McBeath, McBeath, Qing, & Yu, 2014) claims that in Hong Kong

          the emphasis has been on school-based activities, in the nature of civic education....The guiding objective was merger of environmental education into the curriculum....There’s no requirement to teach it as an integrated subject...Some environmental education is included in Liberal Studies, and is taught along with energy, climate change, and sustainable development; energy is the focus.

Liberal Studies is a core subject for senior secondary students who take the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education. It includes six modules that cover local, Mainland Chinese, and global issues, and has a high degree of flexibility in the design and use of learning materials. It is important to analyze whether the curriculum can incorporate EE, and whether teachers put enough emphasis on the parts relevant to the subject.

4. Environmental Education and Liberal Studies Curriculum

4.1. Liberal Studies Curriculum

Liberal Studies curriculum was introduced in 1992 as an Advanced Supplementary Level (ASL) subject for grades 6 and 7. The Curriculum and Assessment Guide (S4-S6) states that the design and assessment framework of the Liberal Studies curriculum are in line with contemporary views on knowledge and learning styles. The curriculum aims to encourage students to explore issues that are related to sustainability, the physical environment, and the relationship between humans and nature. Since 2009, it has become a core subject in senior secondary school. Liberal Studies comprises three areas of study: “Self and Personal Development”, “Society and Culture,” and “Science, Technology, and the Environment.” These three areas aim to help students develop an understanding of themselves, their society, and the world.

There are six modules under the three areas of study: “Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships”, “Hong Kong Today”, “Modern China”, “Globalization”, “Public Health,” and “Energy, Technology, and the Environment.” Each module provides a list of Enquiry Questions to teachers. These questions should guide teachers when discussing controversial events and issues. As part of their studies, students conduct an Independent Enquiry Study (IES). They are required to use the knowledge and perspectives gained from the three areas of study. Students can choose their own topic based on their interest.

“Energy Technology and the Environment” is the most relevant module to environmental education. The Curriculum Development Institute and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (2007, p. 49) states that this module

seeks to analyse how we use energy, and discuss how this has a significant impact on our lives and environment, and how the development of energy technology relates to sustainable development.

The module is divided into 2 themes. “The influences of energy technology” investigates the relationship between energy technology and environmental problems such as climate change, acid rain, and smog. “The environment and sustainable development” explores the importance of sustainable development and its relationship with development of science and technology.

Apart from this module, teachers can teach environmental issues by adopting a cross-modular approach. For example, it is common for Liberal Studies teachers to connect environmental issues such as pollution in Modern China to explain how the rapid urbanization of the country has caused environmental problems.

4.2. Liberal Studies Curriculum and Environmental Education

Hong Kong has an exam-oriented education system that may have a negative backwash effect on Environmental Education. Backwash effect is a term used by the EDB, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, and Hong Kong teachers (e.g. Ho, 2015; HKSAR Government, 2014). It means that testing potentially has a negative effect on learning and teaching. Students’ understanding of the subject is affected as teachers concentrate on teaching examination skills and on the content that is needed for the examination.

Teachers also tend to pay less attention to global environmental issues due to the focus of examination questions on the local context. 2014 DSE Paper 1 contained a question about ‘wind power and renewable energy.’ Other questions on environmental issues were limited to the local and mainland context (see Appendix A). However, environmental problems are global problems; thus EE should not be limited to a single country. Schools should educate students to be responsible global citizens that have knowledge and skills to protect the environment.

Another problem with EE is that teachers of Liberal Studies may not have enough knowledge about environmental issues. There are no compulsory courses on environmental issues for prospective or in-service Liberal Studies teachers. As a result, teachers do not have comprehensive knowledge about environmental issues, and this affects the quality of EE they provide.

Additionally, the EDB recommends to allocate approximately 250 hours of lesson time to Liberal studies. About 168 hours are allocated to the six modules, and 82 hours are reserved for the IES (CDC, 2014). Schools are able to arrange lesson time flexibly throughout the three years. Also, the EDB gives schools freedom to choose textbooks and materials for different modules. Schools then decide whether it is necessary to include EE. In view of this, it is difficult to measure how many hours are allocated to the teaching of environmental issues, and whether or not students have exposure to EE through Liberal Studies.

The EDB states that Liberal Studies is not designed to promote Environmental Education. However, according to a survey conducted among 458 secondary schools, more than 98% of the respondents agreed that Liberal Studies was able to ‘enhance students’ understanding of themselves, their society, their nation, the human world and the physical environment.’ 93% of the Liberal Studies Panel Heads agreed that the subject can ‘help students develop positive values and attitudes towards life, so that they can become informed and responsible citizens of society, the country and the world’ (Education Bureau, 2015). This shows that Liberal Studies’ interdisciplinary nature can help students connect knowledge gained from other areas that are included in the subject (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Liberal Studies and the Three-year Senior Secondary Curriculum (CDI&HKEAA, 2007, p.3)

Figure 1: Liberal Studies and the Three-year Senior Secondary Curriculum (CDI&HKEAA, 2007, p.3)

5. Recommendations

Liberal Studies curriculum has potential to help schools teach environmental issues in a more systematic way. However, the unique nature and characteristics of the subject, the flexible use of lesson time and materials, as well as the lack of teacher training cannot guarantee the effectiveness of teaching EE in Liberal Studies classes. The EDB can play a bigger role in promoting the importance of EE in Hong Kong (White, 2013). It is recommended that the EDB give guidance to schools that is more concrete. The EDB should also develop compulsory training schemes for teachers on ESD and EE, with a focus on the implementation of cross-curricular and cross-modular methods.

UNESCO suggests that the tendency to prioritize examination performance may lead to a decline in ESD due to a decrease in available student school hours (White, 2013). Students do not understand the importance of environmental protection if their purpose in studying environmental education is to pass the examination. To successfully implement the EE program in Hong Kong, a whole school approach should be developed. This means that elements of EE should be integrated into the school curriculum, policies, and extra-curricular activities.


Curriculum Development Institute and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (CDI&HKEAA). (2007). Liberal Studies Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 -6) (with updates in October 2015). Hong Kong: Education Bureau.

Education Bureau (EDB). (2015). Report on New Academic Structure Medium-term Review and Beyond – Continual Renewal from Strength to Strength. Retrieved from for the report (English only).

European Commission (EC). (1997). Environmental Education in the European Union. Brussels: European Commission.

Fien, J., Sykes, H., & Yencken, D. (2003). Environment, Education and Society in the Asia-Pacific: Local Traditions and Global Discourses. Routledge.

Hawthorne, M., & Alabaster, T. (1999). Citizen 2000: Development of a Model of Environmental Citizenship. Global Environmental Change, 9(1), 25-43.

Ho, K.K. (2015). Politicization of the Liberal Studies in Hong Kong. HKU Scholars Hub. The University of Hong Kong.

HKSAR Government. (2014). LCQ2: Curricula of Senior Secondary Subjects. Hong Kong.

Lee, J. C. K. (1995). Environmental Education in Schools in Hong Kong. Environmental Education Research, 3(3), 359-371.

McBeath, G.A, McBeath, J. H., Qing, T., & Yu, H. (2014). Environmental Education in China. Maryland: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Stimpson, P. G. (1997). Environmental Challenge and Curricular Responses in Hong Kong. Environmental Education Research, 3, 345-357.

Tsang, E.P-K. & Lee, J.C.-K. (2014). ESD Projects, Initiatives and Research in Hong Kong and Mainland China. In J. Chi-Kin Lee & R. Efird. (Eds.). Schooling for Sustainable Development across the Pacific. Dordrecht: Springer.

Tsang, P. K. (2003). Heading Towards Environmental Citizenship: The Case of Green School Initiative. In P. Hills & C.S. Man. (2003). New Directions in Environmental Education. Hong Kong: The Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management.

United Nations (UN). (1993). Agenda 21: The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio. New York: United Nations.

White, L. (2013). NGOs and Education for Sustainable Development: A Comparison of the provision of education opportunities for secondary schools in Hong Kong by UNESCO and WWF (Unpublished Master’s thesis). The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Wong, K.K. (2011). Towards a Light‐Green Society for Hong Kong, China: Citizen Perceptions. In International Journal of Environmental Studies, 68(2), 209-227.

Appendix 1


About the Author

Chiu Wing-yin (Bernice)

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


Electric Energy Resources in Hong Kong

By Cai Zhi Yao

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition

3. Electric Energy Resource Import in Hong Kong

3.1. Coal 

3.2. Natural Gas

4. Renewable Energy Power Implementation in Hong Kong

1. Wind Power

2. Solar Power

3. Nuclear Powe

5. Primary and Secondary Education of Electric Energy Resource in Hong Kong

6. Implications and Recommendations

7. Conclusion

8. References

9. Key Terms and Definitions

10. Notes

11. Appendix

12. About the Author

1. Introduction

Hong Kong, Special Administration Region of the Republic of China, is an international city with a population of 7,266,500 (2014 year-end). Under the inevitable globalisation and internalisation, Hong Kong is trying to become an environmentally friendly city. The government and NGOs are promoting sustainable projects. Education as one of the indispensable units of the society, should be seen as an important part of such projects. This entry introduces a broad definition of electric energy and illustrates the situation and controversy in Hong Kong. It then discusses two main imported traditional resources, coal and natural gas, and talks about the implementation of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and nuclear power. After that, the entry examines General and Liberal Studies to see if the topic of sustainable development is discussed in Primary and Secondary education.

2. Definition

Energy is the ability of a system to perform work, and power is the rate of energy use or delivery. The most important and significant distinction between them is their units. The common unit of power is the Watt (W) whereas the unit of energy is kWh. Though there is the watt in the unit of energy, energy measurement also includes time. The word ‘power’ is sometimes used to replace electricity. Wind-power is used as electricity from wind (Coley, 2008). Interpretation may differ in different languages. For example, power means Nengliang (能量) while energy refers to Nengyuan (能源) in Chinese. Electric energy is converted from mechanical energy by rotating the electromechanical generators (El-Sharkawi, 2008). In many industrial applications, electric energy is converted from kinetic energy in the generator (Coley, 2008). In this entry, the focus is on the resources of electric energy, which are mainly used to generate electricity for domestic use.

3. Electric Energy Resource Import in Hong Kong

As a city with no local energy resources, Hong Kong receives its energy supplies almost entirely from other countries. These resources include fossil fuels (e.g. coal and natural gas) and renewable sources (e.g. wind and solar power). This section discusses two imported traditional resources (coal and natural gas) and tracks the changes in their use to explain what efforts have been made to shift to sustainability in Hong Kong.

3.1. Coal

Coal products include steam coal, wood charcoal, anthracite, and coke/semi-coke. They are imported from a wide range of locations. The retained imports of coal products have been dominated in terms of quantity by steam coal that is mainly used for electricity generation.

The major exporting countries have changed under industrialisation and globalisation (Figure 1.1). According to Hong Kong Energy Statistics (1997, 2007 & 2014), Hong Kong imported steam coal and other coal products mainly from Indonesia (1,835,168), Australia (1,771,886) and Mainland China (1,034,596), which accounted for 32%, 31% and 18% of the corresponding total in 1997 respectively. However, Indonesia (11,404,051) became the major supplier in 2007. The amount provided by China and Australia has declined to 6.2% and 0.6% respectively. In 2014, Indonesia (8,199,598) still kept its leading position with 76.7% of corresponding total. Only 138 tonnes were imported from China in 2014. One of the reasons is that in 2005 Indonesia overtook Australia and became the world’s largest producer and exporter of coal (Indonesia Investments, 2015).

Figure 1.1  Percentage of total steam and other coal consumption in 1997, 2007, 2014 ( HKCSD  Annual Reports)

Figure 1.1 Percentage of total steam and other coal consumption in 1997, 2007, 2014 (HKCSD Annual Reports)

Export from China in 2014 was less than 0.05% of the corresponding total.

According to BP Statistical Review of World Energy (BP Global, 2015), Hong Kong shared 0.2% of total world coal consumption in 2014. This is higher than what Demark (0.1%) and Finland (0.1%) consumed. The total coal consumption in Hong Kong increased by 4.82% from 2013. In comparison, consumption rates in Singapore (2.9%) and Mainland China (0.1%) were lower. In other countries steps to further reduce consumption were taken. Taiwan (-0.2%), Malaysia (-6.2%), Japan (-1.6%), and Denmark (-18.9%) decreased the consumption of coal.

Since 1997, the government has prohibited establishment of new power generation that depends on coal as it is the major air polluter (Environmental Protection Department, 2015). For example, Hong Kong stopped importing coal/semi-coal products that have high carbon content. Instead, natural gas as the source of power generation has been encouraged.

3.2. Natural Gas

In 1996, Hong Kong introduced natural gas as an energy resource for electricity generation. Yacheng 13-1 gas field in Hainan Province was constructed with 90.8 billion m3 in December of 1995. It started to transfer natural gas to Hong Kong in January 1996 through a submarine pipeline (780 km) (IITDHP, 2011). Natural gas from Yacheng 13-1 gas field was used in Black Point and Castle Peak Power Station for electricity generation. With reserves depletion and increase of the demand, in 2008, the Chief Executive and the Vice-chairman of NDRC Mr. Zhang Guobao signed a Memorandum of Understanding (HKSARG, 2008) which renewed the supply agreement for 20 years.

Now some power stations use gas as their key method to generate electricity. For example, Black Point Power Station of CLP is one of the world’s largest gas-fired combined cycle power stations. Also, HK Electric has installed one 55MW and four 125MW gas turbines, one 335MW and one 345 MW combined cycle units in Lamma Power Station in 2011. By doing this, it can enable companies to reduce CO2 emission in Hong Kong.

4. Renewable Energy Power Implementation in Hong Kong

According to the REN21 2015 Annual Report, renewables contributed 19% to energy consumption and 22% to electricity generation in 2012 and 2013 respectively all over the world. To try to reduce the environmental impact of energy consumption in Hong Kong, CLP and HK Electric develop plans and projects to maintain a healthy balance between safety, reliability, and environmental performance.

4.1. Wind Power

Wind power is extracted from airflow using wind turbines or sails to produce electrical power. Wind power is consistent yearly but has significant variation over shorter scales. Therefore, it is usually used in conjunction with other electric power.

Hong Kong’s first wind power station Lamma Winds was launched in February 2006. The aims of HK Electric were to provide practical experience in operating a wind turbine and promote public understanding of renewable energy through this pilot project. The wind power is located in the northern part of Lamma Island with the average wind speed of 5.5 metres per second. Its proximity to the existing transmission network, accessibility to roads, and a minimum impact on local wildlife and residents make it an ideal place for wind power generation. According to HK Electric (2015)[z1] , the wind turbine will generate 800,000 to one million units of electricity every year. It is expected to offset the usage of 62,000 tonnes of coal and 150,000 tonnes of CO2 emission annually.

4.2. Solar Power

Solar power is conversion of sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaics (PV) or Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) system are used in this process. PV converts light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect while CSP use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a concentrated beam. According to International Energy Agency (IEA), solar power would be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.

In 2010, HK Electric built a commercial-scale solar power system with a generating capacity of 1MW in Hong Kong. The system comprises 5,500 amorphous silicon and 3,162 amorphous/microcrystalline silicon tandem junction TFPV modules that consume less silicon and are more environmentally friendly. This system is expected to generate 1,100,000 units of electricity annually, which will also help to reduce 915 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

4.3. Nuclear Power

The threats of global climate change and increasingly expensive fossil fuels have prompted many nations to reconsider the development of nuclear energy as an option. There is no nuclear power station in Hong Kong. However, according to CLP, Hong Kong imports 70% of electricity from Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant that was launched in 1994. In 2009, the supply contract was extended until 2034. The Plant is located in Shenzhen which is a convenient place to provide electricity to Hong Kong. The capacity purchase of this plant is 1,378MW and CLP has 492MW equity capacity.

Nuclear decision-making involves not only technical issues but also a complex mix of economic, social, environmental, and governance concerns such as risk management and public distrust (NEA, 2010). [z2] WWF Hong Kong offered four reasons to reject nuclear power. First, Hong Kong is able to reach the proposed carbon reduction target without the need for nuclear power only if they could be firmly on demand side management (DSM). Second, Hong Kong should carry out large-scale energy saving and conservation programmes instead of increasing energy supply. Third, the society and citizens should change the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. Last, safety issues of using nuclear power need to be discussed.

5. Primary and Secondary Education of Electric Energy Resource in Hong Kong

Starting from Primary 3, pupils gain general knowledge about energy and develop awareness about saving energy in daily consumption. In secondary education level, the curricula for science (S1-3) and physics (S3-6) have a limited time for relevant courses. According to Syllabuses for Secondary Schools in Science (Secondary 1-3), science class at this level has 11 units with only one unit about energy and one about electricity. According to Physics Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4-6), physics class at this level has compulsory part (184 hours), elective part (50 hours), and investigative study (16 hours). For elective part, students choose only 2 out of 4 topics. The learning content is partly based on student’s personal choice. In Secondary 4-6, the arrangement is different. The unit on Electricity and Magnetism (48 out of 184 hours) is a compulsory part whereas unit on Energy and Use of Energy (25 out of 50 hours) is an elective part.

Other units also cover such energy sources as gas and nuclear energy. Those units, however, teach to further assess students’ knowledge, not cultivate their awareness of sustainable development. In the Appendix we can observe discrepancies between learning contents and outcomes. Although students are required to have knowledge in a specific area, they study the topic broadly and in an exam-oriented way.

6. Implications and Recommendations

From a technological perspective, during the last decade efforts have been made by the government and NGOs to facilitate the efficiency of electricity generation and shift to clean energy sources. The awareness of citizens and energy saving education, however, need to be improved.

The Thematic Household Survey Report No. 17 (2004) revealed that the majority of households often or sometimes ‘did not mind using appliances with high electricity consumption for comfort of living’ (83.0%) and ‘did not care about the amount of electricity consumed as well as the charges involved’ (76.0%). This attitude may influence the progress in energy saving, especially in Hong Kong where residential income and consumption are relatively high. It was also observed that, although 63.6% of the investigated households supported the government to introduce renewable energy, 36.9% of them indicated that they would not choose to use renewable energy. Further research is needed to examine the influences on people’s attitudes about renewable energy (e.g. tariff and finical condition). Education should also highlight the importance of sharing responsibility to promote sustainable development in Hong Kong. The government and Education Bureau should not only focus on academic achievement, but also provide opportunities for relevant extracurricular activities.

7. Conclusion

This entry focuses on the electric energy resources in Hong Kong. In the age of globalisation and internalisation, the society is developing very fast but is experiencing the shortage of resources. To turn to the path of sustainable development, the government and NGOs in Hong Kong are trying to optimise and improve infrastructure and awareness and knowledge about the issues related to sustainability. For example, the electricity bills show how many carbon dioxides household produce. Although the effect of these initiatives needs further discussion, the efforts are significantly recognised.

Education system as a vital process of social functioning should also address this problem. The current educational system is assessment oriented and does not provide opportunities for extracurricular activities that would raise awareness about energy consumption. Policies should be developed to educate a new generation to lead sustainable lifestyles.


BP Global. (2015, June). BP Statistical Review of World Energy (64th ed.). London, UK: BP.

Census and Statistics Department (HKCSD). (1998, July). Hong Kong Energy Statistics: Annual Report 1997 Edition. Hong Kong, Census and Statistics Department.

Census and Statistics Department (HKCSD). (2004, April). Thematic Household Survey Report No. 17. Hong Kong, Census and Statistics Department.

Census and Statistics Department (HKCSD). (2008, May). Hong Kong Energy Statistics: 2007 Annual Report. Hong Kong, Census and Statistics Department.

Census and Statistics Department (HKCSD). (2015, April). Hong Kong Energy Statistics: 2014 Annual Report. Hong Kong, Census and Statistics Department.

Coley, A. D. (2008). Energy and Climate Change: Creating a Sustainable Future. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

Curriculum Development Council (CDC). (1998). Syllabuses for Secondary Schools: Science (Secondary 1-3). Hong Kong, Education Department.

Curriculum Development Council (CDC). (2011). General Studies for Primary Schools: Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 - Primary 6). Hong Kong, Education Bureau.

Curriculum Development Council & The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (CDC & HKEAA). (2014, January). Science Education Key Learning Area: Physics Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6). Hong Kong, Education Bureau.

El-Sharkawi, A. M. (2009). Electric Energy: An Introduction. Boca Raton: CRC Press

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG). (2008, August). Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Co-operation. Hong Kong, GovHK. Retrieved from

The Hongkong Electric Co., Ltd. (2015). The Power behind Hong Kong: Lamma Power Station. Retrieved from

Industry and Information Technology Department of Hainan Province (IITDHP). (2012). Hainan Province Chronicle: Industry Chronicle (The second round). Retrieved from

Indonesia Investment. (2015, October). Coal. Retrieved from

Mah N. D., Hills P., & Tao J. (2014). Risk Perception, Trust and Public Engagement in Nuclear Decision-making in Hong Kong. Energy Policy, 73(2014): 368-390. (2013, September). Overview of Natural Gas. Retrieved from

Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). (2010). Public Attitude to Nuclear Power. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

REN21. (2015). REN21 annual report 2014. Paris: REN21

WWF-Hong Kong. (n.d.). Why Say No to Additional Nuclear. Hong Kong: World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from

Key Terms and Definitions

Electric Energy: Energy is the ability of a system to perform work and power is the rate of energy use or delivery. And electric energy is the energy newly derived from electric potential energy.

Hong Kong: Officially Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, it is an autonomous territory on the southern coast of China without indigenous energy resources

Traditional Energy Resource: natural resources that are all that exists without the actions of humankind and are used to generate electricity.

Renewable Energy:  energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.


 [z1]The Hongkong Electric Co., Ltd. (2015). The Power behind Hong Kong: Lamma Power Station. Retrieved from

 [z2]Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). (2010). Public Attitude to Nuclear Power. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 

Appendix 1 Content and Learning Objective from Primary 1 to Secondary 6 (General Studies for Primary Schools Curriculum Guide, Syllabuses for Secondary Schools in Science, and Physics Curriculum and Assessment Guide)


About the Author

Cai Zhi Yao

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


Promoting Energy Conservation and Efficiency through Education in Hong Kong

By Samuel Joseph Craig

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Non-formal Education

4. Formal Education

5. Consensus, Challenges, and Limitations

6. Conclusion

7. References

8. Notes

9. Appendix

10. About the Author

1. Introduction

It is estimated that 53 percent of the world’s population currently live in cities, and according to the United Nations it will be 66 percent by 2050 (UN, 2014). One of the biggest economic and environmental challenges that cities face now and in the future is and will be energy consumption. Energy consumption in Hong Kong and around the world is set to increase in alignment with population. With an increase in energy consumption comes an increase in pollution and a greater risk to the world’s changing climate (see Appendix Figure 1). The need for energy conservation and efficiency is urgent.

This entry focuses on past, present, and future formal and non-formal education strategies which attempt to address the issue of energy consumption in Hong Kong through energy conservation and efficiency. There are three sections. The first section presents Hong Kong’s unique context and background as it relates to energy consumption. The second describes the earlier, current, and future direction of non-formal and formal education. Finally, the third section discusses the consensus, challenges, and limitations of these strategies.

2. Background

Hong Kong has a unique cultural, economic, social, and environmental context, which affects the way in which it consumes energy. It is one of the most densely populated places on earth, has long, hot and humid summers, a high performing, international, capitalist economy, and its technologically literate population of 7.2 million mostly live and work in high rise buildings (Environment Bureau, 2015d). Hong Kong people enjoy reliable urban infrastructure, technological innovation, and a high quality public transport system, which has resulted in them consumption of moderately less energy per capita in comparison to other economically developed places around the world (Wong, 2011; World Bank, 2015; EB, 2015a, pp. 6-7; see Figure 2).

Figure 2    Electric power consumption in Hong Kong (OECD/IAE 2014)

Figure 2 Electric power consumption in Hong Kong (OECD/IAE 2014)

In fact, Hong Kong has the lowest energy intensity[1] index of all Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and European Union member states (see Figure 3).

Figure 3    Energy intensity ranking (APEC Energy Statistics 2012)

Figure 3 Energy intensity ranking (APEC Energy Statistics 2012)

However, in order to cope with the challenges of limited resources and space, Hong Kong relies on a diverse mix of mostly imported fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Power plants emit over 70 percent of greenhouse gases in Hong Kong. 89 percent of the total energy consumed in Hong Kong is by buildings, residential and commercial. The majority of that energy is used for air conditioning and lighting, which causes endemic pollution in the environment (EB, 2015a, 2015d).

Since most of the energy consumed in Hong Kong is by residential and commercial buildings, the responsibility of energy conservation and efficiency has fallen on the entire community. In order to do its part for the global environment and to improve energy safety, security, affordability, and reliability, the Hong Kong government is encouraging Hong Kong people to become more “energy aware” and “energy wise”. It has identified energy conservation and efficiency through formal and non-formal education to be an effective and successful strategy to meet its energy intensity reduction target of 40 percent by 2020 on 2005 levels and one that needs expanding and developing (EB, 2015d).  In order to tackle pressing environmental problems, Hong Kong has implemented non-formal and formal education strategies since the early 1990s. There is an exhaustive list of formal and non-formal education strategies that have been implemented by the government, community, and non-governmental organisations. This entry will only refer to those which have made the most lasting impact on energy conservation and efficiency.

3. Non-Formal Education

Non-formal education in energy conservation and efficiency has mostly been promoted by collaborative government initiatives with community and school support. At the beginning of the 1990s, public education and social mobilisation strategies were very much seen as non-formal grassroots movements. In 1990, for example, the community based Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC) was established to engage the community through publicity and educational programmes to ‘promote public awareness of environmental issues and to encourage the public to actively contribute to a better environment’ (ECC, 2012a). It has since created numerous non-formal education programmes such as roving exhibitions, seminars on global warming and climate change, drama performances about green lifestyles, and a book series on low carbon living (ECC, 2012b).   

In the mid-1990s to early 2000s, environmental strategies started to shift to schools in an effort to engage young people in sustainable development and environmental citizenship (Tsang & Lee, 2014). Set-up in 1995, the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme (SEPAS) is designed to promote and support government and community initiatives, to enhance environmental awareness and to develop a sense of responsibility among young people. It is supported by the government run Environmental Protection Department (Environmental Protection Department, 2005a). It has organised many energy conservation and efficiency activities such as camps, exhibitions, trainings, and dramas. In 2006, SEPAS collaborated with the community for the Action Blue Sky Campaign in order to reduce pollution by setting air conditioners to an optimum temperature and encouraging the use of energy saving appliances. The subsequent success of this campaign has led to a continuing effort to promote and provide information about how to conduct these practices via government run websites (GovHK, 2015). By 2007, 805 Hong Kong schools were participating in SEPAS (EPD, 2007)

Another major breakthrough for energy conservation and efficiency practice in schools came in 1999 through the Green School Award (GSA) for pre-schools and primary and secondary schools organised by the Environmental Campaign Committee in collaboration with the then Education and Manpower Bureau. The GSA encourages schools to create environmental policies and environmental management plans to enhance environmental awareness and develop environmentally friendly attitudes among school managers, teachers, non-teaching staff, students, and parents (ECC, 2012c). Schools in Hong Kong would receive an award if they measured up to energy saving standards set by the Hong Kong Green Building Council.

Aside from school and community initiatives, more recently, with the prevalence of and accessibility to modern technology and the internet, Hong Kong government departments have set up websites for public education and social mobilisation purposes. One example is the Energy Saving for All website which notifies the public of campaigns, competitions, and awards such as the Solar Car Competition and Youth Energy Award. This promotes student-centred learning and the development of skills. The comprehensive website has valuable information about energy conservation and efficiency practices where the public can learn how to take individualised steps to lead a “greener life” (EB, 2015b).

4. Formal Education

Formal education approaches to energy conservation and efficiency have not been as long established or as extensive as non-formal education approaches. In Hong Kong, environmental studies/science has never been studied as a formal subject in primary or secondary schools and as a result has always existed on the margins (Tsang & Lee, 2014). Over recent years however, despite a demanding curriculum, it has experienced some development.

In 1992, the Curriculum Development Council (CDC) published the non-mandatory “Guidelines on Environmental Education (EE) in Schools” which aimed at producing lifelong learning, promoting energy conservation and efficiency practices and concern for the environment through a cross-curricula approach. In 1996/97, General Studies, which included EE, was introduced into primary schools, and in secondary schools EE was incorporated across the curriculum into science subjects, geography, and Liberal Studies (EPD, 2005b). In 2009, with the introduction of the New Secondary School Curriculum (NSSC), environmental education was formally included as a core subject within Liberal Studies. Along with this formal education approach, non-formal approaches as part of the NSSC included project learning and life education (Tsang & Lee, 2014).  In 2013, there were further developments in the Liberal Studies curriculum which included a module, “Energy technology and the environment.” This module explored ‘how the applications of energy and technology improve people’s quality of life and impact the environment.’  For energy conservation and efficiency in particular, teachers are encouraged to explore global solutions to sustainable development with their students by, for example, investigating bicycle transport in various cities in Europe and Japan and deciding whether it is feasible to practice similar energy conservation and clean air practices in Hong Kong (CDC, 2013).

In addition to the Liberal Studies curriculum, the Hong Kong government stated in its Energy Saving Plan (ESP), released in 2015, that it intends to ‘update schools and public education programmes’ (EB, 2015d, p. 6). However, as of November 2015, what those plans will entail has not been released to the public.

5. Consensus, Challenges, and Limitations

As Hong Kong people become more environmentally aware and responsible, their attitudes towards education for sustainable development have shifted over the years from community grass roots approaches to a demand for top-down, government led initiatives. A public consultation in 2007-2008 ‘indicated that Hong Kong people have high aspirations to achieve higher energy efficiency’ (Wong, 2011, p. 220). Additionally, in 2009, a public opinion survey carried out by Hong Kong Baptist University showed that there was a consensus and willingness to save energy. In 2015 with the release of the Energy Saving Plan (ESP) document, the Secretary of the Environment, K.S. Wong, exclaimed that ‘over 13,000 Hong Kong people responded to the Public Consultation on the Future Development of the Electricity Market document.’ Also, they noted a clear consensus from stakeholders, non-governmental organisations and the public for DSM (demand-side management) measures like energy conservation and efficiency to be taken into account for the period from 2015-2020.  

On the other hand, the HKBU survey also discovered that Hong Kong people were pragmatic when it came to energy conservation and efficiency and that they prioritised materialistic lifestyles: ‘the dominant value of Hong Kongers is the pursuit of economic return’ (Wong, 2011, p. 214). Whether Hong Kong people wish to genuinely conserve energy and be efficient because of environmental concerns or whether a desire to save money is the driving motivator is in dispute. Perhaps more exploration around attitudes such as these could inform later policy. Clearly more research as to Hong Kong people’s motives for energy saving is needed.

An alternative view to the evidence for general consensus in energy conservation and efficiency is found by Alice (2004) who claimed that ‘most students exhibit low levels of interest in “green behaviour” and participating in voluntary environmental activities’ (Tsang & Lee, 2014, p. 210). This implies not necessarily a lack of consensus but rather a feeling of apathy, and is especially challenging to non-formal education campaigns which rely on enthusiasm from participants. Tsang and Lee (2014) also cite further in the education sector when initiating ESD in Hong Kong such as insufficient support for teachers, inadequate teacher training, a lack of resources and funding, and preparation time. Another challenge for the education sector, especially in regard to formal education, is cultural and societal. According to White (2013), Confucian Hong Kong’s societal preferences for education are based on exam preparation and there is pressure on students to gain top exam results. Therefore, if ESD topics are not featured in examinations, there will be little incentive for Hong Kong students to fully engage in learning and to retain the material.

Another issue is language. Accessible online material regarding EE/ESD is not always congruent with all audiences in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an ethnically diverse city with literate and educated people who speak, read and write in a variety of languages. Publicity campaigns, leaflets, education packages, and teaching resources are usually distributed in either Chinese or English. A prime example is the Chinese teaching kits in the secondary school physics curriculum (EE, n.d.), which would be quite useless to students who only read English. Energy conservation and efficiency concerns all stakeholders in Hong Kong and without access to knowledge regarding these strategies their effectiveness comes under scrutiny.

6. Conclusion

Hong Kong has a range of measures for implementing energy conservation and efficiency practices and is making a good attempt to capture the public’s attention through public education and social mobilisation in order to become energy aware and wise. However, realistically and pragmatically Hong Kong people lean culturally towards a materialistic view of life which inhibits their action to live green lifestyles. As a result, it is difficult to conclude whether formal and non-formal education strategies over the past two and a half decades have been responsible for a greater effort from Hong Kong people to live greener lifestyles. Is it due to a realisation of money savings or genuine environmental concerns?

Some formal and non-formal education strategies are limited in their effectiveness. They rely on the enthusiasm of the participants, the inclusion of ESD in the examination system, and teacher training. Additionally, as Hong Kong people become more globally aware to the challenges of climate change and dwindling energy supplies, consensus indicates that they would like to see more renewable energy deployed in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong’s limited space and existing energy supply contracts are a hindrance to progress (EB, 2015a). Hong Kong will become more energy conservative and efficient in the long term; however, that may be too late. Looking to the future, hopefully the strategies employed by Hong Kong in becoming more energy conservative and efficient will have a positive effect on other places around the world with similar cultural, economic, social, and environmental contexts.   


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[1] “The energy intensity of an economy (energy demand per unit of economic output) is a measure of the amount of energy it takes to produce a dollar’s worth of economic output.” (EB, 2015d)


Figure 1    Population increase vs per capita electricity consumption in Hong Kong, 1990-2012 (C&S)

Figure 1 Population increase vs per capita electricity consumption in Hong Kong, 1990-2012 (C&S)


About the Author

Samuel Joseph Craig

MEd, The University of Hong Kong