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Curricula for Global Sustainability Education

Ignite your students' learning and inspire them to take action in their communities with our hands-on, standards-aligned global sustainability curricula!

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Buy, Use, Toss? A Closer Look at the Things We Buy - Lesson Plan PDF
Buy, Use, Toss? A Closer Look at the Things We Buy - Lesson Plan PDF

Teacher Lesson Plan PDF | Free
Buy, Use, Toss? is a free interdisciplinary unit that includes ten fully-planned lessons. This unit is correlated with national science and social studies standards and will lead your students through an exploration of the system of producing and consuming goods that is called the materials economy. Students will learn about the five major steps of the materials economy; Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal. They will also be asked to analyze the sustainability of these steps, determining how consumption can benefit people, economies, and environments. 

            



 

Free Downloads

This download (a $19.95 value) is available for free thanks to generous contributions from the following funders: Crosby Philanthropy Fund, Johnson Family Foundation, Lawson Valentine Foundation, Martin-Fabert Foundation, Singing Field Foundation, The Story of Stuff Project - a project of the Tides Center, Wallace Global Fund, Weeden Foundation. Thank you! Your support will empower thousands of students in all types of schools and communities across the United States to build a more sustainable future.

Buy, Use, Toss? A Closer Look at the Things We Buy (complete unit)

http://www.facingthefuture.org/DesktopModules/FTFModules/wfLogDownload.aspx?FileToDownload=4483Download the entire unit for FREE.


Introduction and Table of Contents

Download the introduction and table of contentsPreview the introduction and table of contents, and overview


Lesson 1: Garbology

Download Lesson 1: GarbologyStudents first analyze typical contents of a North American trash can in order to define "luxury" and "necessity" for themselves. They read a short article about trash typically found in a modern dump in North America. Using information from this reading, students will draw conclusions about how these artifacts reflect the lifestyle of those who used and disposed of the items.


Lesson 2: Mapping the Impact

Students create a web diagram to illustrate environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with everyday items. This activity expands the concept of “ecological footprint” to consider impacts of a given lifestyle on people and societies. Students develop ideas to reduce the ecological footprint and associated impacts related to an everyday item.

Download Lesson 2: Mapping the ImpactDownload the Notebook version of lesson 1


Lesson 3: Drilling down to Sustainability

Download Lesson 3: Drilling down to SustainabilityStudents define and discuss sustainability and its three key components: the economy, the environment, and society. In a warm-up activity, they evaluate two seemingly identical apples through the lens of  sustainability. Students then discuss and debate the sustainability of various resource extraction methods. Finally, they determine if alternatives would be more sustainable.


Lesson 4: The Cost of Production

Download Lesson 4: The Cost of ProductionStudents consider where most of our imported material goods are assembled and the environmental and social impacts of production. In small groups, students develop policies that a company might use in working with foreign manufacturers, considering pros and cons of each policy. The class votes on the most essential policy and advocates for business and government leaders to adopt or enforce this policy.


Lesson 5: On the Road to Retail

Download Lesson 5: On the Road to RetailStudents read about different components of product distribution in a scenario. They analyze information related to environmental and social impacts of distribution to determine opportunities for making distribution more sustainable. This lesson also provides an opportunity for students to explore the concept of externalities, or “hidden costs” of a product.


Lesson 6: Why Buy?

Download Lesson 6: Why Buy?Students begin by considering the purpose of advertising. Each student critically analyzes an advertisement that appeals to him or her, weighing advertised information against their needs as consumers. Students discuss whether additional information should be included in product advertisements and how advertising connects to consumption choices.


Lesson 7: Defining Happiness

Download Lesson 7: Defining HappinessStudents individually decide what types of things positively contribute to their quality of life. They compare their ideas about quality of life to national statistics related to how Americans spend their time, and determine how Americans could restructure their time to improve quality of life. Students also evaluate their own progress toward “the good life” and how their personal consumption habits impact their progress.


Lesson 8: It’s a Dirty Job

Download Lesson 8: It’s a Dirty JobStudents take on perspectives of different stakeholder groups involved in determining how to deal with a community’s growing trash. Stakeholder groups are encouraged to form alliances in order to reach consensus on the plan that will be best for the community.


Lesson 9: A System Redesign

Download Lesson 9: A System RedesignStudents recall the hidden impacts associated with various components of the materials economy (the system of producing and consuming goods). They then brainstorm points of intervention in order to redesign the system. Students work in pairs to determine ways to make the materials economy more sustainable.


Lesson 10: Analyzing the Message

Download Lesson 10: Analyzing the MessageStudents critically analyze The Story of Stuff by identifying the overall message of the film, persuasive techniques used, and bias. In an extension activity, students further examine data presented in the film, cross-checking references to analyze the accuracy and reliability of the film.

Resource Details

 

Why Use Buy, Use, Toss?

Some concepts just naturally engage students’ curiosity. Consumption - how we "buy, use, and toss" - is one of those engaging concepts. Because consumption is current, relevant, and real, it is an ideal context for teaching core subject matter and 21st-century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration.

Consumption is by nature an interdisciplinary concept. Students can build math and science skills while calculating the carbon footprint of shipping blue jeans across the ocean, or they can engage in civic discourse during a discussion of how we dispose of our waste. Buy, Use, Toss? is a two-week unit that provides multiple entry points to help students think critically about consumption.

 Key Concepts Covered:
  • advertising
  • carbon footprint
  • consumption
  • corporate social responsibility
  • culture
  • distribution
  • ecological footprint
  • environmental justice
  • externalities
  • globalization
  • marketing
  • materials economy
  • media literacy
  • natural resource extraction
  • production
  • quality of life
  • structural solution
  • sustainability
  • sustainable design
  • systems
  • waste disposal

 

How to Use Buy Use Toss?

Buy, Use, Toss? A Closer Look at the Things We Buy is a 2-week unit for grades 9-12.

Compatible subject areas:
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Business/Finance
  • English Language Arts
  • Communications
  • Journalism
  • Mathematics

This series of ten fully-planned lessons will lead your students through an exploration of the system of producing and consuming goods that is called the materials economy. Students will learn about the five major steps of the materials economy: Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal. They will also be asked to analyze the sustainability of these steps, determining how consumption can benefit people, economies, and environments. While this unit was designed as a comprehensive whole, each lesson can also stand alone.

Buy, Use, Toss? includes a project-based assessment (Lesson #9) and a more traditional summative assessment in the form of a pre/post-test. Included in each lesson are ideas for action projects, extension activities, background readings, and additional resources. The lessons were pilot tested by classroom teachers and are aligned to national science and social studies standards. A number of the lessons include links to The Story of Stuff. If you choose to use The Story of Stuff video in conjunction with the lessons, suggestions for when to do so are provided.

The lessons are also designed to stand alone, in case you do not want to or are unable to show the video in your classroom. Only Lesson #10, a critical analysis of The Story of Stuff, is dependent on the video. Thoughtful consumption can play a part in creating a sustainable future. Knowing the story behind the things we buy, use, and toss can help us to consume in ways that improve our lives and the lives of others. The intent of this unit is not to discourage students from buying "stuff" but rather to equip them with knowledge and skills to help them be informed and empowered consumers. These lessons will help you do just that in a uniquely engaging way.

 

Buy, Use, Toss? Lessons

Download the complete table of contents.

Lesson 1: Garbology

Download Lesson 1: GarbologyStudents first analyze typical contents of a North American trash can in order to define "luxury" and "necessity" for themselves. They read a short article about trash typically found in a modern dump in North America. Using information from this reading, students will draw conclusions about how these artifacts reflect the lifestyle of those who used and disposed of the items.


Lesson 2: Mapping the Impact

Students create a web diagram to illustrate environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with everyday items. This activity expands the concept of “ecological footprint” to consider impacts of a given lifestyle on people and societies. Students develop ideas to reduce the ecological footprint and associated impacts related to an everyday item.

Download Lesson 2: Mapping the ImpactDownload the Notebook version of lesson 1


Lesson 3: Drilling down to Sustainability

Download Lesson 3: Drilling down to SustainabilityStudents define and discuss sustainability and its three key components: the economy, the environment, and society. In a warm-up activity, they evaluate two seemingly identical apples through the lens of  sustainability. Students then discuss and debate the sustainability of various resource extraction methods. Finally, they determine if alternatives would be more sustainable.


Lesson 4: The Cost of Production

Download Lesson 4: The Cost of ProductionStudents consider where most of our imported material goods are assembled and the environmental and social impacts of production. In small groups, students develop policies that a company might use in working with foreign manufacturers, considering pros and cons of each policy. The class votes on the most essential policy and advocates for business and government leaders to adopt or enforce this policy.


Lesson 5: On the Road to Retail

Download Lesson 5: On the Road to RetailStudents read about different components of product distribution in a scenario. They analyze information related to environmental and social impacts of distribution to determine opportunities for making distribution more sustainable. This lesson also provides an opportunity for students to explore the concept of externalities, or “hidden costs” of a product.


Lesson 6: Why Buy?

Download Lesson 6: Why Buy?Students begin by considering the purpose of advertising. Each student critically analyzes an advertisement that appeals to him or her, weighing advertised information against their needs as consumers. Students discuss whether additional information should be included in product advertisements and how advertising connects to consumption choices.


Lesson 7: Defining Happiness

Download Lesson 7: Defining HappinessStudents individually decide what types of things positively contribute to their quality of life. They compare their ideas about quality of life to national statistics related to how Americans spend their time, and determine how Americans could restructure their time to improve quality of life. Students also evaluate their own progress toward “the good life” and how their personal consumption habits impact their progress.


Lesson 8: It’s a Dirty Job

Download Lesson 8: It’s a Dirty JobStudents take on perspectives of different stakeholder groups involved in determining how to deal with a community’s growing trash. Stakeholder groups are encouraged to form alliances in order to reach consensus on the plan that will be best for the community.


Lesson 9: A System Redesign

Download Lesson 9: A System RedesignStudents recall the hidden impacts associated with various components of the materials economy (the system of producing and consuming goods). They then brainstorm points of intervention in order to redesign the system. Students work in pairs to determine ways to make the materials economy more sustainable.


Lesson 10: Analyzing the Message

Download Lesson 10: Analyzing the MessageStudents critically analyze The Story of Stuff by identifying the overall message of the film, persuasive techniques used, and bias. In an extension activity, students further examine data presented in the film, cross-checking references to analyze the accuracy and reliability of the film.

State Standards

Classroom Examples 

The classroom example below shows how Buy, Use, Toss? can be used to address a variety of classroom challenges and increase student involvement.


Wendy Ewbank
  • School: Seattle Girls School, Seattle, WA
  • Grade: 7     Classroom Size: ~18
  • Subject: Social Studies and Science

Educator Quotes


 Great resource – allows for flexibility and adaptability to meet the needs of a wide range of student abilities -  very easy to differentiate instruction given the additional resources and ideas for extension. 

- Terri McCallister, Gifted Education Resource Teacher, Grades 11-12, Virginia

 

 Excellent resource which makes learning fun! Learning came alive as students related their own habits to the world impact. 

- Nicole Means, Social Studies Teacher, Grade 9, West Feliciana High School, Louisiana

 

 An excellent resource for an environmental studies/geography course if you want to give students an overview of how they impact the environment. 

- Trevor Rodie, Geography Teacher, Grade 12, Canada

 

 I’ve told my co-workers about this at our last staff meeting, trying to drum up support and have others use the material. I simply told them that this is some of the best curriculum to come down the pike in a lot of years and when hooked up with “The Story of Stuff,” can’t help but get kids excited about real learning. 

- Jef Schultz, Language Arts and Humanities Teacher, Grades 7-8, California

 

 I will highly recommend this [unit] to my colleagues and beyond! The video was a nice addition, but the lessons were able to hold their own. Overall an exemplar approach that met the needs of my varied classroom. 

 - Michele Rybuck, Social Studies Teacher, Grades 10-12, Canada

 

 [T]he information provided was excellent, I appreciated that the data was supported with sources. 

- Science Teacher, Grades 11-12, Virginia

 

 I think the materials help students to see outside of themselves and their own situations, and even realize how incredibly fortunate they are to live in this country. 

- Kelley Gill, Environmental Studies Teacher, Grades 7-10, Alaska

Professional Development

Facing the Future offers the following professional development opportunities to help you learn more about Buy, Use, Toss? A Closer Look at the Things We Buy:


Webinar

During this 45-minute web seminar, we will explore the 10 lessons in Buy, Use, Toss?, learn about its development, and hear how educators have used it to engage their students. Buy, Use, Toss? is an interdisciplinary unit that includes ten fully-planned lessons. This unit is correlated with national science and social studies standards and will lead your students through an exploration of the system of producing and consuming goods that is called the materials economy.

 

Speaker:

To learn more about our webinars, please visit our Webinar page. If you are interested in scheduling a webinar please contact us or call us at 206-264-1503.


Workshop

Buy, Use, Toss? A Closer Look at the Things We Buy

The global materials economy doesn’t end at our front doors - it quietly continues to landfills, incinerators, and recyclers. Knowing the story behind the things we buy, use, and toss can help us to consume in ways that improve our lives and the lives of others. In this hands-on workshop, take part in interdisciplinary lessons from a free online curriculum unit that explore the life cycle of products and the multifaceted aspects of global production and consumption. Teachers will be equipped to engage their students in a meaningful exploration of what it takes to get consumer products into their hands (extraction, production, distribution, advertising) then out of their lives (disposal, reuse, recycling), and their role in making informed, responsible choices that take into account the interconnected nature of production and consumption. Students will be better able to evaluate their consumption choices and habits in light of environmental, economic, and social impacts.

To learn more about our upcoming workshops, webinars, and conferences, please visit our Workshop Calendar. If you are interested in having Facing the Future present at your next event please contact us or call us at 206-264-1503.


Additional Professional Development Opportunities

 

To learn more about our upcoming workshops, webinars, and conferences, please visit our Workshop Calendar. If you are interested in having Facing the Future present at your next event, please contact us.

Supplementary Materials

To complement Buy Use Toss, this section contains background information and additional resources to help educators and students learn more about global issues and sustainability.

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Nonprofit Facing the Future is an international leader whose mission is to create tools for educators that equip and motivate students to develop critical thinking skills, build global awareness and engage in positive solutions for a sustainable future.
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