Innovation In Sustainability Education

Sustainable. Sustainability. You’ve heard of these terms, but what exactly do they mean?

Urban Green Lab, a Nashville-based nonprofit, works to promote ways Nashvillians can protect the area’s natural resources for future generations, explains Todd Lawrence, executive director.

Since 2009, UGL has used an educational approach in developing curricula and teaching individual responsibility and actions in everyday culture.

“Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends on our natural environment,” Todd says. “To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”  

Through state funding, a mobile teaching lab equipped with solar panels was built. It can be booked by middle school teachers to complement sixth-grade curriculum. Students use practical experiments and projects to learn everything from how energy is generated to how many miles apples have traveled to get to Kroger’s. They also do a home audit of family energy use.

By teaching sustainable behaviors through classroom information and practical reinforcements, UGL hopes to change behavior to where, for example, each person could save 50 pounds of food waste, 350 pounds of landfill waste and 6,500 gallons of water annually. 

“It’s not about saving the world,” Todd says. “That’s really hard to get your head around, but we start with local, short-term steps for a vibrant environmental culture.”