Education for Sustainable Development: glossary

The United Nations has declared 2005-2015 as "the decade of Education for Sustainable Development".


Carbon footprints

The effect of human activities on the climate in terms of the quantity of greenhouse gases generated through individual lifestyle choices.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

"ESD enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way that we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve quality of life without damaging the planet for the future." ESD is a statutory requirement in schools, especially in the teaching of Geography, Science, Design and Technology, and Citizenship. Students are required "to develop an awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development on a personal, national and global level." National Curriculum 1999 .

Ecological footprints

The area of biologically productive land and water required for a given population to exist at a given consumption level.

Food miles

The distance over which food travels from the farm to market (can be measured in terms of energy consumption, transport costs).

International Geographical Union (IGU)

Established in Brussels in 1922, the IGU holds congresses every four years and organises meetings and research worldwide on the basis of a series of Commissions, including Commission on Sustainable Rural Systems.

Royal Geographical Society (RGS)

In conjunction with the Institute of British Geographers , the RGS is the Learned Society in the UK representing Geography and geographers.

Sustainable agriculture

Aims to achieve environmental stability, economic profitability, productivity in terms of maintaining food supplies to the non-farm population, and support for the rural community.

Sustainable development

'Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. This definition comes primarily from the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future (World Commission on Environment and development 1987). This placed the emphasis of sustainability to concepts of environmental preservation, conservation and the maintenance of ecological processes.


Sustainability is effectively the goal of sustainable development. It is the ideal end state to which we must aspire.

World Summit on Sustainable Development

Held in Johannesburg , 2002. Built upon previous summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (the Earth Summit). Formulated a ten-chapter action plan with measurable outcomes identified on key issues: water and sanitation, energy use, biodiversity, health, desertification.