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The Clothesline for Sustainability: Can Individual Actions Contribute to Strong Sustainable Consumption?
In this activity, students reflect on the sustainability impact of individual consumption actions and the possibilities and limitations of realizing strong sustainable consumption through individual choices.


By: Sylvia Lorek (University of Applied Science Münster)

Session type: Single session, Undergraduate level, Large size


  • Personal consumption

  • Social change

  • Sustainability impacts

  • Reflexivity exercise


Introduction to the teaching example:

The activity attempts to question the widely held view that tiny increments in individual consumption decisions can produce adequate leverage for system change by energizing students' fundamental knowledge and suppositions on the impact of various consumption behaviors. It specifically attempts to raise students' awareness of which kinds of behaviors are pivotal and which are not in order to transition toward stable and sustainable consumption.


Using a flashcard, students are asked to make a suggestion about what individuals could do to consume sustainably.  After gathering the suggestions, certain flashcards are read to the whole classroom. The next stage is for the students to hang their cards on a clothesline with the words "big steps" (or "high impact") on one end and "small steps" on the other (or low impact). The group then analyzes if the actions are in the right spot and what are the opportunities and constraints for achieving sustainable consumption in communities through personal choices.

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