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Who is using The Lifestyle Project?

The Lifestyle Project at Institutions Near and Far

This page describes various adaptations of the Lifestyle Project in different types of courses and institutions, along with some outcomes from the project. If you are teaching with the Lifestyle Project and want to share your experiences, please contact Karin Kirk (or use submission form)

University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND - Dexter Perkins

Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, Canada - Steven Earle

The project is used in two courses with the theme of Energy and the Environment, one a face-to-face course for future teachers, the other an on-line course open to all students.

  • Participation in the project is voluntary. The alternative is a term paper Approximately 90% of students take part!
  • The project can be started at any time within the 13-week term
  • The most popular topic choices are water and diet, followed by electricity and waste.
  • Since relatively few choose to give up the use of their car, we have now made the transportation topic mandatory for all students who drive to campus. We ask them to reduce their driving by at least 30% in week 1, 40% in week 2 and 50% in week 3.
  • We've also asked students choosing the diet option to make a concerted effort to restrict themselves to locally-produced foods.

Student Comments:

"It was fun, trying and eye-opening. An experience that I will take with me for many, many years and incorporate into my teaching in the future."

"... I am amazed how fast it has gone ... I have been able to influence my landlord, family, friends and most importantly myself."

"I really like walking home. I feel better after I do it."

"I am now used to all the free time in the mornings that I save from not doing my hair; this I thought I could never change!"

End of term survey on the lifestyle project:

  • 31/34 said that it increased their awareness of the environment
  • 34/34 thought that it was a useful education experience
  • 32/34 said that they would consider adapting this project to their own classrooms

Southampton Solent University, Southampton, UK - Paul Wright

The project is used part way through a first- level undergraduate unit in Global Environmental Issues. It ties in with future units looking at community involvement in environmental issues, and sustainable development

  • Many of our students are local, or rent locally, therefore, driving to the university is rare.
  • Most chose the energy and water saving options, with some claiming they recycle already.
  • No one took the diet option!
  • Participation is required of all students There is no official assessment, but there is a formative reflective writing exercise.
  • As this is only part of a unit, the exercise is used for one week only, early in the unit, to introduce issue of personal responsibility.

What the students said:

"It was more difficult than we thought."

"In a shared house, getting others to allow you to turn thermostats down is difficult."

"I managed to have shorter showers for three days, then I kind of forgot."

Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, NY - Karin Kirk

The project is used in a distance learning course in Geology and the Environment. The students are typically adults with jobs and families, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

  • The project is offered as one of two options in the final portion of the course. (The other option is a research paper about conservation, using the same topics as the project.)
  • Typically about 2/3 of the students elect to do the project.
  • The project begins with the ecological footprint quiz (more info) and a BTU calculation assignment (Microsoft Word 43kB Dec23 05) so that students can gain an awareness of how their actions add up.
  • The project runs for three weeks.
  • Journals are submitted electronically at the end of each week.
  • Instructor comments are added to the journals and they are returned electronically within a few days.
  • Students use a discussion board to share suggestions and anecdotes from the project.
  • The instructor posts her project journals to the discussion board, which seems to generate student interest.

Because many of these students are older, and have households to run, the impact of the lifestyle project is very different than it is for young students living on campus. The changes are more difficult because they may need to convince their spouse or children to cooperate. Many are holding down a full-time job while doing the project. On the other hand, the project may affect these students more profoundly because it impacts their entire household.

Examples of student outcomes:

  • Trying to convince teenage kids to eat vegetables and take shorter showers
  • Setting up carpooling with co-workers
  • Convincing spouse to stop letting the water run when he does the dishes!
  • Bringing lunch or coffee to work in reusable containers
  • Encouraging the boss to allow recycling bins at work
  • Setting up a compost pile
  • Rethinking the grocery shopping experience (packaging, processing, imported foods, meat)
  • Setting foot in a health food store or local co-op.

Examples of pedagogic outcomes:

  • Creates a closer community in a distance learning environment
  • Creates teamwork among students
  • Allows for a personal connection between instructor and students
  • Ends the course on a practical note that they can relate to their "real lives"