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The Power of One? Engaging Students to Reflect on Individual Agency to Confront Environmental Issues
Students brainstorm ways that they can reduce their ecological footprint, as well as how they can play a role in ensuring their university and country do the same. The activity prompts a discussion of our cultural capacity to imagine participating in environmental action at different scales.


By: Emily Huddart Kennedy (University of British Columbia)

Session type: Single session, Undergraduate/Graduate level, Small/Medium/Large size


  • Social change

  • Personal consumption

  • Ecological footprints


Introduction to the teaching example:

The activity aims to help students understand how individualized solutions to environmental concerns are socially constructed and can be used to get a classroom warmed up


First, the entire class is encouraged to come up with ideas for reducing their individual ecological footprints while the lecturer writes down the suggestions on the board. Students use the same procedure to think about how they could pressure the university to reduce its environmental impact; the same prompt is used to think about students' potential for activism at the national level. 


For each stage, a timer is set for 30 seconds, and as students call out their ideas, they are written on the board. Following these reflections, students first engage in a group reflection in groups of three to four people (5 minutes allocated) and subsequently with the entire class (10 minutes allocated). They are prompted to consider the difficulty of reducing individual carbon footprints on one’s own and the social construction of engaging in safeguarding the environment.

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