Unlearning Unsustainability: A letter to Design Educators on Sustainability Delay

BOEHNERT, Joanna and Dewberry, Emma (2023). Unlearning Unsustainability: A letter to Design Educators on Sustainability Delay. In: The 7th International Conference for Design Education Researchers, 29 Nov - 1 Dec 2023, London, UK.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21606/drslxd.2024.091


The climate and ecological emergencies present a crisis for all global communities. This moment reveals both resistances to accepting the need for fundamental change – alongside opportunities for, and challenges to, new ways of living. The authors call on the design education community to reflect on how design education is responding to ecological crises. Sustainability scholars have long described the crucial role of education as a facilitator of sustainable change. We argue that educational institutions, like many formal institutions today, have aimed to address contemporary concerns by adding sustainability ideals to existing ways of working, resulting in ineffective sustainability outcomes – and delays to delivering learning and action that support sustainable transitions. We propose the meaningful adoption of design for sustainability requires the unlearning of unsustainability and its associated structures, processes, and outcomes, to rebuild a discipline able to meet the challenges that ecological crises bring.

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