Unesco Green Citizens

Education for Sustainable Development

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) empowers people with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to change the way they think and act towards a sustainable future.

UNESCO aims to transform society by changing what, where and how we learn in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and meet the global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. It seeks to improve access to quality education on sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts. ESD reorientates education so that individuals of all ages are encouraged to be responsible actors and change-makers, who resolve challenges collaboratively and contribute to creating a more sustainable world.

Learn more about UNESCO’s work on Education for Sustainable Development : https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-sustainable-development

Education for Sustainable Development
Indigenous and Local Knowledge
Forests and desertification
Natural disasters risk reduction
Natural resource management
Participatory science/citizen science
Sustainable lifestyles
Democratic Republic of the Congo
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United States of America
parade for manta rays protection awareness

Planeta Océano: protecting the Giant Manta

Kerstin Forsberg is determined in engaging coastal fishermen communities of Peru in protecting the giant manta ! To do so, she created the marine educator’s teacher network as well as participatory research or community-based manta ray ecotourism. Planeta Océano engages coastal communities in marine conservation through research, marine education and sustainable development initiatives. These initiatives include:

1. Participatory research and citizen science: Local volunteers (fishermen, children, youth, among others) actively investigate local ecosystems, fisheries, and marine species, thus supporting local management efforts. Projects have included assessing shark and ray fisheries, pioneering manta ray conservation in Peru, assessing Traditional Ecological Knowledge on critically endangered sawfish, and supporting Marine Protected Areas.

2. Marine education: Incorporating and institutionalizing marine education and Ocean Literacy. Projects have included setting up Peru’s “Marine Educators Teacher Network” with over 50 schools, leading incubators for youth-lead environmental initiatives, game-based education and their Connecting Schools program, which aims to bring together students across borders through online technology and community engagement.

3. Sustainable development: Fostering environmental entrepreneurship and market-based approaches that contribute to marine conservation and socio-economic development. For example, pioneering community-based manta ray ecotourism in Peru as an alternate livelihood for low-income fishermen and local artisans.

Ultimately, these multidisciplinary and participatory efforts serve as a platform to connect multiple sectors in marine conservation, thus bringing together government, academia, youth, children, local fishermen, and many others.


Sustainable Cupuaçu in the Amazon

In the past 30 years, nearly 1,000,000 km2 of Amazonian forest has been destroyed. The local communities of Bela Aurora and Santa Luzia are restoring the forest, by planting local species, like the Cupuaçu. By following the principles of agroforestry, they turned the forest into a sustainable source of both food and income. With support from the local NGO Instituto Beraca, they are preserving the Amazonian biodiversity, transferring knowledge on sustainable agroforestry from one community to the other.

The project was conceived on three missions: to protect; to explore; to educate. These missions were the guiding elements for the construction of the project’s objective and action areas, which have the following propositions:
PROTECT – Main element of the project that aims to protect the Amazon biome from the restoration of degraded areas through the implementation of agroforestry systems (SAF) in Bela Aurora Community. The project foresaw the planting of 3,000 feet of cupuaçu (in addition to other Integrated species) in the expectation of a production of around 6 tons of seeds in 3-4 years. The strategy adopted to achieve this objective is to transfer technology between family farmers in the community of Bela Aurora and the community of Santa Luzia, in Tomé Açu, which has a history of production in SAFs.
EXPLORE – The pillar aims to systematize and disseminate knowledge from the project’s learning and results, through scientific publications, congresses, etc.
EDUCATE – Consists on conducting workshops with children and young people from the Bela Aurora community, seeking to reinforce the element of environmental education in SAF cultures. This formal moment aims to help develop a more theoretical and critical perception of reality, focusing on the role of human beings in nature, the dynamics of trees in the forest and the importance of preserving biodiversity to maintain the balance of the biome. Within the initiatives aimed at implementing the SAFs, Six training workshops were planned, which involve activities to raise awareness of the importance of restoring degraded areas, preserving the environment and agro-ecological production with family farmers in Bela Aurora.



Schools’ Environment Programme

By believing in the power of sustainable education, Diana Mc Caulay has reached more than 400,00 students all over Jamaica thanks to her schools’ environment programme ! Together with teachers, they empower youth through in schools sustainable development awareness.

SEP is the longest-running program of its kind in Jamaica, having been delivered in over 350 Jamaican schools, with an estimated reach of over 400,000 students and 700 teachers for over two decades. It is the Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET’s) flagship environmental education initiative, and at its height, was Jamaica’s largest environmental education program.
SEP addresses the generally low levels of environmental awareness among Jamaican teachers and students and provides on the ground examples of good environmental stewardship. Participating schools use a whole school approach to carry out campus-based activities in four main areas: managing garbage, greening of school grounds, strengthening or establishing an environmental club and environmental research. The program also encourages the development, monitoring and ongoing evaluation of environmental action plans by JET, and introduces environmental issues via workshops for teachers and students. SEP encourages schools to place focus on specific environmental thematic areas for campus-based activities and promotes project-based learning. SEP also promotes environmental outreach to the wider school and local community and celebrates schools’ achievements via an annual awards ceremony.



Wadi Degla Virtual Museum

In a quest to raise people’s awareness regarding Egypt’s natural heritage and specifically the Wadi Degla Protected Area, a group of citizens decided to use Virtual Reality to bring people closer to nature: when technology meets sustainable development! 

As part of Nature Conservation Egypt’s environmental education program, Wadi Degla Virtual Museum is a pioneering educational experience that provides environmental, historical, and geological awareness about Cairo’s gateway to the Eastern desert in a mobile and dynamic way. This project uses Virtual Reality (VR) technology to bring the public closer to nature and educate them about one of Egypt’s fascinating protected areas in the form of three 360-degree videos that cover the following topics:
1. The Geological History of Wadi Degla
2. The Biodiversity and Ecosystems of Wadi Degla
3. The Nature-friendly activities in Wadi Degla

They offer three main educational experiences:

Experience 1: An intimate closed lecture with select participants (max.16)
What it looks like: It is a 2-hour lecture that incorporates VR videos for all participants. At the end, all participants get printed educational material.

Experience 2: An open lecture followed by a closed VR experience session
What it looks like: It starts with an hour educational lecture that is open to anyone interested in learning about the Wadi Degla protectorate. Upon entrance, every attendant gets a raffle ticket. At the end of the lecture, 16 raffle tickets are randomly selected. Those whose numbers are chosen get to experience the WDVM videos with the team. All participants get printed educational material.

Experience 3: A public booth
What it looks like: Anyone interested can experience the VR and get educational material about the protected area.

Experience 4: A customized educational experience based on your context and preference.

To ensure the sustainability of this project, they often charge for this service the institution and communities that do not suffer from poverty. Compensation is based on a sliding scale depending on the recipient’s ability to pay. A small percentage of the fees goes towards maintaining the project’s equipment while the majority goes towards sponsoring a free event at another institution that cannot pay.



Solidarity for water on Nokoué project (PCSEN)

Seven communities around the lake Nokoué are suffering from the lack of water sanitation. To solve this problem, they have launched a participatory management programme, enabling everyone to take part in looking for water sanitation solutions! 

The PCSEN is a project, structured under the auspices and with Emmaus International’ that enables participatory management and sustainable access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene on the Nokoué lake in Benin. Originally, the project was financed for 52 months (from July 2011 until October 31, 2015), the PCSEN was then extended for six months to end on May 31, 2016. But the consultations started in 2007 and today, Emmaus international continues to dedicate a budget to this project.

The project has several objectives: improvement of living conditions, improvement of health, empowerment and reappropriation of fundamental rights, development of public citizen management of water and sanitation.
The PCSEN was implemented around four main activities:

– Access to drinking water
– Access to sanitation
– Hygiene promotion
– Capacity building

The project went through a first phase targeting 2 pilot sites (Ahomey-Gblon and Gbessou). These positive experiences led to a second phase targeting 7 sites in the municipality of Sô-Ava, that was financed jointly by Emmaus International, the European Union (Water Facility) and the Abbé Pierre Foundation.



School Garden Initiative

Driven by community demand, Aaron Ebner has initiated the construction of greenhouses in schools, a unique tool for sustainable development education! The goal is to raise awareness about nutrition, responsibility and agriculture in schools of the Cusco region thanks to the participation of teachers in this programme. 

The AASD provides the materials and expertise for greenhouse construction. In coordination with the school, they develop a curriculum that gets students directly involved in the maintenance and management of their shared school greenhouse. The curriculum is highly participatory and practical with the intention of giving students improved understanding of nutrition, greenhouse cultivation, and a sense of empowerment that comes with responsibility.



#Africa #Women


Determined to empower women and youth, Sarah Toumi has initiated a reforestation programme, teaching agro-ecological techniques and planting forest gardens and green corridors all over Tunisia! 

Trees4Tunisia is a reforestation program empowering women and youth in Tunisia, teaching agroecological techniques and planting forest gardens and green corridors all over the country to fight desertification, poverty and inequalities.
This project is able to offer opportunities for women and youths in rural areas how to generate revenues from the forests, planted, while restoring biodiversity and soils and offering learning opportunities for children, the youth and women to be involved in an ecological project with a big vision thanks to the program “The young forest keepers”.


Eden In Iraq's Team

Eden in Iraq WasteWater Garden Project

Meridel Rubenstein and the Eden In Iraq team co-created this project with the goal of providing effective sewage treatment for the marsh arab community, one of the world’s oldest cultures, in southern Iraq. Currently, untreated sewage endangers both their health and the historic marshes.

The final aim: Eden In Iraq will transform human waste into a public wastewater garden and cultural heritage park using green plant’s phyto-remediation.

Eden In Iraq is a humanitarian water remediation project, expressed through wastewater garden design and environmental art, which will provide urgently needed health and clean water for southern Iraqis, their children, and future generations to come. Their solution utilizes simple and sustainable wastewater recycling technology to support a garden that embodies the rich cultural heritage and tradition of the marshes and the Marsh Arab community.

After seven years of intensive fieldwork, groundwork, and design preparation, they seek funds to realize this important ecological and cultural heritage project. they are ready to break ground on their given site in El Chibaish to begin the first third of the 26,500 square meter (6.5 acre) Public Wastewater Garden. Eden In Iraqseek a total of $1.7 million dollars to complete the detailed floral and cultural heritage design work for the entire garden in 2021.The wastewater garden features locally significant design details, making it a public site that emphasizes cultural heritage, while restoring health and offering ecological education.


-In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein’s forces secretly drained the immense Southern Iraq wetlands to punish the Shi’a rebels hiding there. They transformed it into a desert, murdering tens of thousands of Marsh Arabs and compelling hundreds of thousands more to flee. Conflict and violence altered the Marshlands into a decimated parcel, disturbing its ecological composition, and leaving detrimental vestiges that still pose serious challenges to its survival.

-Since Hussein’s demise in 2003, three hundred thousand of the expelled Marsh Arabs have returned to re-green and restore the marshes, with the help of Nature Iraq NGO their sponsor. Due to the rapid environmental changes in the marshes, with the return of inhabitants, serious sewage and health problems have ensued. There is currently no sewage treatment in the Marsh Arab towns and cities–at most, sewage is pumped into a collection site and discharged without treatment into a river or marsh. This is causing odour and damage to the long-term ecology of the marshes and the health of the community.

The inauguration of Iraq’s first national park in 2013, the Mesopotamian Marshes National Park, demonstrates the country’s hope for environmental restoration and future tourism.
In July 2016, UNESCO designated the marshes and surrounding ancient sites of Eridu, Uruk and Ur, a World Heritage Site. Due to this recent designation, the traditional arts, crafts, and cultural heritage of the Marsh Arabs and the ancient Mesopotamian societies, as well as the landscape and biodiversity of the marshes, are being revived and preserved.

Eden In Iraq plans to build the very first demonstration Wastewater Garden in El Chibaish, Southern Iraq, in order to help the Marsh Arab communities, in the process of rebuilding their war-devastated homeland, solve issues of sewage, renew environmental stability and conserve a natural environment of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Between 2014 and 2016, three of the largest town councils in the region enthusiastically approved of their garden by donating the use of five large sites, each serving 5-10,000 people. They understood that their current situation endangers both their health and the health of the wetlands. With the support of mayor Mr. Badeaa Al-kayoun, and regional governor of Dhi Qar, Mr. Yahya al-Nasiri, Eden In Iraq chose to build the first constructed wetland and wastewater garden at El Chibaish, along the north bank of the Euphrates River, in the Central Marshes. The city is an important urban area along the main road from Nasiriyah and Basra. Eden In Iraq hope this initial garden will serve as an important example of how this system can be implemented elsewhere within the country.

The site in El Chibaish is 26,250 square meters (2.5 hectares/6.4 acres), which allows for treatment of the sewage wastewater of 7,500 people. Currently, this wastewater is being discharged along an open canal and channeled into the marshes. It has a terrible smell and is unhealthy for all the boat traffic through the canal to the marshes.
The constructed wetland treatment will start with 7,000 square meters of reeds, which grow 1.8 meters tall. This first reed bed will immediately diminish the odor from the sewage. The wastewater will then go into the second phase of the garden: the “subsurface flow wetland.” Here, organic material of the sewage will be transformed by bacteria into mineral substances, cleaning the wastewater and simultaneously creating a beautiful and culturally significant garden by providing nutrients for plants and fruit trees. 

The garden will draw attention to Mesopotamian design and history. Woven embroidered Mesopotamian Wedding blanket patterns have inspired the garden’s blueprint and layout of its planting areas. The designs of this ancient woven craft are inspired by “nature and its biological diversity and also the spirit of ancestors”* within Marsh Arab culture, and are being passed down to new generations. 3,000-5,000 year old Sumerian Cylinder seals will inspire graphic design elements and ceramic wall reliefs.  Drawings and Blueprints are available. Eden In Iraq are ready to build…


Meridel Rubenstein, Project Director, conceptualized Eden In Iraq as a symbolic restoration of the fabled Garden of Eden. The Marsh Arabs, descendants of the original people of this historic area, are a preeminent example of refugees returning from exodus to their homeland. Rubenstein is an adjunct Professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, 2015-.  She was a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University(NTU), 2007-18. She is also an internationally recognized artist working at the intersection of nature and culture, especially in relationship to ecological and social imbalance. Her photography, site-specific installations and research practice demonstrate skilled communication and collaboration with distinct groups around cultural and environmental issues. She has received numerous grants and awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work has been featured in exhibitions and publications worldwide. Her art and design studio is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

Jassim Al Asadi is the managing director of the regional Southern Iraq office of Nature Iraq (NGO). He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Technology, Baghdad, 1980, and extensive work experience as an engineer on water remediation projects throughout Iraq. He was Director of the socio-economic studies section for CRIM (Center for Restoration of Iraqi Marshlands) from 2003-05, and for MWoR (Ministry of Water Resources) from 1985-2003.
He has participated in numerous international meetings and conferences on the Iraqi wetlands, held in Switzerland, Italy, Jordan and Egypt. He also participated in the Strategic Plan for the Wetlands, the architectural sites in Iraq and the infrastructure planning in Southern Iraq.
He has lectured internationally: at the Workshop on Sustainable Communities, Cairo, 2006, UNEP meetings with Iraqi MoWR, Amman 2004, the International Conference of Donor Nations on Iraqi Marshlands, Venice, Italy, 2004, and workshops in Iraq related to the Iraqi Marshlands 2004-2012. He was the driving force at Nature Iraq to help bring the designation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site to the marshes and the ancient sites in 2016.

Mark Nelson, PhD, is a founding director of the Institute of Ecotechnics and has worked for several decades in closed ecological system research, ecological engineering, the restoration of damaged ecosystems, desert agriculture and wastewater recycling. He is Chairman and CEO of the Institute of Ecotechnics (www. ecotechnics.edu), a U.K. and U.S. non-profit organization, which consults to several demonstration projects working in challenging biomes around the world, and head of Wastewater Gardens International (www.wastewatergardens.com). He has written many books and has helped pioneer a new ecological approach to sewage treatment, “Wastewater Gardens®” which are constructed subsurface flow wetlands with high biodiversity and has created such systems over 150 countries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Explorers Club and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In one of Dr. Nelson’s book, features an essay on the Eden in Iraq Project with photographs by Meridel Rubenstein. 

Davide Tocchetto holds a PhD in environmental agronomy. Presently, he is a lecturer of Agronomy at an Italian high school. He developed his first career at Padova University with research in sustainable agriculture and wastewater treatment with constructed wetlands. He was a founding member of a University start-up to develop a water treatment patent. He was awarded an Innovation Prize for the “Techia” floating wetland patent and the “2008 start-up of the year” prize in Italy.
He is a freelance partner with numerous national and international companies in developing varying projects in different fields of operation outside of Italy. He was also a partner in the United Nations project “Green School for Gaza” where he studied and developed (with MCA Architects and UNRWA) the whole water circle and reuse system in a new school in the Gaza Strip. 

Zahra Souhail ,Project Manager, is a Dutch-Iraqi, born in Baghdad and raised in the Netherlands. She is a certified project manager with more than 10 years of professional experience working at some of the largest corporations in the Netherlands including Achmea and presently for the Municipality of Amsterdam. Having survived war and turmoil in her native country, Zahra is passionate about civil society and volunteering. She is a firm believer in the importance of education and knowledge exchange in the development of children and societies at large that have suffered from conflict and violence. Since 2018, Zahra has been a contributing member and Project Manager of the Eden of Iraq Wastewater Garden Project, a humanitarian water remediation project to provide urgently needed health and clean water for southern Iraqis, their children, and future generations to come. Fluent in English, Arabic and Dutch, Zahra is a keen explorer and has visited more than 40 cities around the globe. Traveling satisfies her curiosity about different people, cultures and history. 

In October 2019 Eden In Iraq were set to receive funds from the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources to begin building the first third of the wastewater garden this past winter with workers and equipment commensurate with $250,000.   This would immediately remove the sewage odour from the marshes. Just as they prepared to return to build, popular protests erupted causing the fall of the National government. The newly approved Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani, has written a new letter of support for the project. But with the fall in oil prices and Covid-19 affecting the Iraqi economy, the National Budget of which they once were part, is very diminished. New elections are now set for June 2021. So huge changes lie ahead but they will continue their fundraising efforts elsewhere until they can return.



Saving the Great Yellow Bumblebee

Katy Malone is determined to build on the project she started in Scotland to save bumblebees, by raising awareness and developing concrete conservation actions. The goal is to protect these small beings which are very important for their flora.

Over the two-year project the main emphasis will be to further increase their knowledge of GYB’s using a combination of both broad-brush and focused intensive surveying efforts. These survey findings will inform future targeted conservation efforts, including landowner work, habitat creation and increasing habitat connectivity. In addition, they will put effort into continued landowner engagement. They will be concentrating on finding sustainable ways to continue monitoring GYB populations in the long term. During Year 2 of Saving the Great Yellow Bumblebee, they will be concentrating their surveying efforts primarily on the Outer Hebrides and Caithness, based on Year 1 survey results from Sutherland.

Specific project actions are to:
– Undertake a variety of bumblebee and forage surveys in order to establish a more accurate and up to date picture of GYB distribution and abundance, and factors which may be limiting its success.
– Deliver bumblebee identification and survey training, and refresher events
– Support bumblebee monitoring volunteers with tailored events, often 1:1
– Provide tailored advice to landowners and managers supporting beneficial management for Great Yellow bumblebee



Keep it Clean

Based in Estonia, a group of citizens has created an international community of change agents who aim to change behaviours and help create sustainable solutions in local communities !

While the waste problem is a global one, solutions to it are very much local. What’s more, the ‘Keep It Clean’ concept foresees a specific role for different stakeholders in each society. Their approach enables one to embrace the unique characteristics of any community while applying general principles of zero waste, circular economy and non-formal education techniques.

This training program concept has been developed for the following reason – to be used as an implementation tool for making a very own Keep It Clean Plan. Its main aims are:

– Give participants basic skills that will help them to start sustainable waste management initiatives within their communities (municipality or district level).

– Create zero waste leaders and ambassadors.

– Empower participants to be ambassadors in their own communities and inspire them to pass on the skills and knowledge acquired from the training they receive.


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