INTRODUCTION to Sustainability


teacher's notes


> Grade: 7th to 9th


> Subjects

Natural Science


a. What on earth is sustainability?

b. What is global warming?

c. what kind of activities result in the emission of greenhouse gases?


what on earth is sustainability?

To ‘sustain’ means to support and to keep existing. The way we live — the way we shop, travel, eat, entertain ourselves and conduct business — is only ‘sustainable’, if we do not use up all the resources needed for us and future generations to stay alive. So how do we know whether something is sustainable or not?


To make sure something is sustainable we need to know that it takes care of the ‘three Ps’ – People, Planet, and Profit.


For example, if you own a company, taking care of people means making sure that everybody related to what you sell has a high quality of life: your workers receive a good salary and access to healthcare, and your company develops a great product so your clients have access to excellent service and an enjoyable customer experience. Taking care of the planet means buying your raw materials from sustainable sources, making sure to recycle all your waste, and minimising the use of toxic chemicals. Taking care of profit means that your company earns more money than it spends, giving you enough profit to make sure everybody related to the company has a good life.


Thanks to all the medical advances in the last centuries, the world’s population is growing fast. As our technology has improved — beginning with the industrial revolution — we are now super-efficient at extracting natural resources from Earth. As we are growing in number and becoming more efficient, our demand for resources is increasing. However, unfortunately the Earth’s resources are limited, and there is


• Only so much land to grow food on,

• Only so much oil, coal and wood for heat and energy,

• Only so many habitats for animals,

• Only so much clean drinking water…


As you can see, our current way of life is not sustainable. Not only are we using more resources than we can replace but also, in the making of all these products, we are causing severe pollution that translates into climate change.




Let's see what Nelson has to say about the extraction of natural resources.


Do you ever wonder what kind of materials things are made from?  Let your teacher guide you through the materials that some of the more common objects are made from.

concept check

match the key terms from the text to the definition on the right (Fill this up on a paper that your teacher will give you).


to exhaust




The natural home or environment of a living organism

All the people born and living at about the same time

The things we use to support ourselves, like water and food

To use so much of something that there is nothing left

Use of resources that leaves enough to future generations.

mini research task

TASK 1 - How much has the world population grown since 2000?

TASK 2 - How many species of animal are currently at risk of extinction?

TASK 3 - Which industries are the most polluting and in what ways?

TASK 4 - What are the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals?

TASK 5 - What is 'food security' and 'water security'?




‘Global warming’ and ‘climate change’ refer to the rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system and the effects of this rise.


Experts explain this rise in temperature as the result of an enormous increase in the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.


Before the amount of greenhouse gases rose, the Earth would receive infrared radiation from the Sun in the form of heat. The small amount of greenhouse gases living in the atmosphere back then would absorb some of this radiation to make sure the earth was always at a nice and liveable temperature.


However, the amount of GHGs has been increasing rapidly since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. All the heat that GHGs absorb gets trapped inside the atmosphere, causing a rise in the temperature of the Earth. This is called the greenhouse effect.


Scientists are now more than 95% certain that global warming is mostly being caused by increasing concentrations of GHGs, as a result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the deforestation of tropical forests, among others.


GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and water vapour. C02 is the most common of these GHGs.


The question is, are we contributing to the increase of GHGs in the atmosphere?



Global warming could do more than just melt polar ice. It could change our maps, and displace people from cities and tropical islands.

What kind of activities result in the emission of greenhouse gases?


concept check

match the key terms from the text to the definition on the right (Fill this up on a paper that your teacher will give you).




greenhouse gas

fossil fuel

infrared radiation

the amount of a substance in one space

a natural fuel formed in the past from living organisms

invisible radiant energy emitted by the sun and heated objects

the layer of gases surrounding a planet

take in or soak up by physical or chemical action

gases that absorb infrared radiation

what kind of activities result in the emission of greenhouse gases?


pre reading questions and predictions

What kind of activities result in the emission of greenhouse gases?

Why are we producing more GHG emissions than ever before?

How can we know how polluting things are?


When your parents drive a car, the engine burns fuel that creates a certain amount of carbon dioxide (CO2). The amount of CO2 produced depends on how far the car is driven and how much fuel it uses. The same applies to planes and trains, though not to bicycles or walking.


When you heat your house with oil, gas or coal, you also generate CO2. Even if you heat your house with electricity, the production—or generation—of the electrical power will also have emitted a certain amount of CO2.


The production of food and goods also involves the emission of some quantities of CO2. Even sending an email generates CO2! With advances in technology and the huge increase in the number of people living in towns and cities nowadays, almost all of our activities result in the emission of some CO2.


The GHGs released into the atmosphere by the activities of an individual, household or company can be measured, and the total amount is called the ‘carbon footprint’ of the activity. A carbon footprint is measured in CO2.


So let’s find out what our very own carbon footprint is.



Visit www.footprint.wwf.org.uk and follow the instructions on the website.


Compare your footprint:

In general, what is the most polluting activity?

What is the least polluting?

Come up with ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint.


Here are some ideas on how to reduce your footprint:


Optional homework

Discover your whole family’s footprint and compare it to your classmates’.

Now you've learned about Planet!

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