top of page

Covering One’s Tracks: An Ecological Footprint Game and Debate
A game and debate approach to ecological footprints that help students grasp the reality of allocating finite resources to a variety of consumption areas.

By: Karin Dobernig (University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt) and Karl-Michael Brunner (WU - Vienna University of Economics and Business)

Session type: Multiple sessions, Graduate level, Medium size


  • Ecological footprint

  • Consensus building

  • Game


Introduction to the teaching example:

The activity aims to develop the following competencies: (i) self-reflection on consumption habits and associated environmental consequences; (ii) group consensus building (listening skills, argumentation, etc.); (iii) accepting multiple views; and (iv) developing well-structured and persuasive arguments (i.e. communication skills). 


First, the concept of the ecological footprint is explained to the students. Then, in groups, students discuss how to allocate their "ecological footprint budget" across various consumption categories, such as the adoption of a vegan diet as a trade-off for traveling. The aim is to reach a consensus within the group on how to allocate the footprint budget and display the findings on a flipchart, with various colors denoting the various consumption areas. Each group presents their findings as well as shares their reflections on the choices they found simple or complex, the ease with which they were able to come to an agreement on trade-offs, etc.


Students then engage in a Pro & Contra Debate on the question "Can and Should Individual Consumption Take on a Leading Role to Foster the Transition to a More Sustainable Society?”. Students are divided into two groups (Pro-group and Contra-group) and given half an hour to develop compelling arguments and "get into" their positions. Three delegates from each group are selected, and they take part in the discussion which is around 30 minutes. The debate itself and the strength of the various arguments are observed and evaluated by the listeners. The lecturers acquaint the teams with the game's rules and lead the argument, and mostly serve as moderators and facilitators throughout the activity.

bottom of page