Household ecological footprinting for active distance learning and challenge of personal lifestyles

Crompton, Sally; Roy, Robin and Caird, Sally (2002). Household ecological footprinting for active distance learning and challenge of personal lifestyles. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 3(4) pp. 313–323.



This paper introduces a new distance learning course, 'Working with our environment: technology for a sustainable future'. An inter-disciplinary team within the Technology Faculty of the Open University developed this undergraduate course, which enrols over 1,500 students per year. One of the overall course aims is to help students understand how the use of technology to meet human material needs contributes to environmental effects. The process of producing this course, its philosophy, aims and design will be briefly discussed. At the start of the course a lifestyle environmental assessment activity, called EcoCal, is integrated within students' study materials. The activity enables students to assess the main impacts on the environment arising from their own households' consumption of transport, energy, food and water and production of waste. Through the use either of a printed questionnaire or publicly available software students can calculate their 'ecological footprints' and then consider and model the effects of changes to their lifestyles. Through the combination of undertaking this activity and submitting an appropriate assignment, students are encouraged to think critically and creatively about their personal and household impacts on the environment and how these might be reduced. At the end of the course students are surveyed to explore whether their attitudes and behaviour have changed.

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