Globalization has made consumers powerful actors in our world economy. Our daily choices as consumers affect the lives of workers in distant places and the way people live. Sustainable consumption means buying goods and services that do not harm the environment, society, and the economy. Although it is predominantly an issue for high-income and emerging economies, consumption is an excellent entry point for teaching about sustainable development. Consumer education is practical, touching the daily lives of people near and far away. Local consumer action can have a global, social, economic, and environmental impact, both today and tomorrow.
Education therefore has an important role to play for consumers, in terms of:
- learning to know about the products we buy; encourage curiosity about how and where goods are produced as well as what the working conditions are in the country of origin? How far are goods shipped to reach the supermarket shelves? What is the environmental footprint of the production and transport of certain products?
- using knowledge about the impact of our economic choices in order to change our behaviour and consumption habits. However, knowledge is not enough. ESD is a transformative learning process and aims to change the way people interact with the world.
ESD and Sustainable Lifestyles at UNESCO
Together with UNEP, UNESCO has been active in raising awareness and providing educational resources in relation to sustainable consumption via its YouthXchange Project. YouthXChange (YXC) is a “train-the-trainer” kit designed to assist youth groups, NGOs, teachers, and trainers to raise and acquire awareness of the adoption of more sustainable consumer choices in a youth-friendly format. YXC involves a participatory process based on interaction and cooperation between teachers and youth, discussion and learning from experiences.