Why Sustainable Practice/Introduction

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A Systems Approach to Sustainable Practice


Course Purpose

  1. To understand what sustainable practice is and why it is important.
  2. To introduce systems thinking and strategic process to achieving sustainable practice.

Course Delivery

  • Information will be presented through a range of technology and mediums:
    • Slide presentations with pre-recorded voiceovers
    • Videos from the Internet
    • Interactive games and activities
    • Readings
  • Quizzes and an assignment that can be submitted online

Course Outline

  • Module 1: Course Outline and Core Concepts
  • Module 2: Two Converging Issues
  • Module 3: Ecological Footprinting and Personal Reflection
  • Module 4: What is Sustainable Practice
  • Module 5: The Business Case
  • Module 6: Seeing Systems
  • Module 7: Nature's Design
  • Module 8: Sub-systems
  • Module 9: Greenwash
  • Module 10: Final Assignment

To pass the course

You need to complete

  • Learning journal (50%)
  • Final Assignment (50%)

Important Documents

  • How to use this course
    • Assignments
    • Course Workbooks
    • Introduction to tutors
    • Glossary
    • News Items
    • Participant Forum

Module 1

Introduction to the course and the key concepts

  • Course purpose
  • Course overview
  • Module content
  • Final assignment

Module 2

Two Converging Issues

  • Our Global Reality
  • The Funnel Metaphor
    • Pressure created through two converging trends
    • Increased resource use
    • Declining health of natural systems
    • What does this mean for New Zealand?

Module 3

Ecological Footprinting and Personal Refection

  • Ecological Footprint
  • Ecological Overshoot
  • Handprint
  • Personal Reflection
    • Ecological Footprint Quiz 1

Module 4

What is Sustainable Practice?

  • Weak vs. strong sustainability
  • A framework
  • Sorting the confusion
  • A new way of thinking

Module 5

The Business Case

  • Risk
  • Kiwi are shifting
  • The secret benefits
  • Case studies
  • What can I do?

Module 6

Seeing Systems

  • System thinking is essential to understand complex systems—such as
    • the human body
    • the national economy
    • the earth's climate or
    • An organisation

Module 7

Rules of Nature & the System Conditions

  • Ecosystem services and natural capital
  • Know the rules
  • System conditions
  • Principles for sustainability

Module 8


  • The Big Picture focuses on three important areas that need greater understanding if we are going to identify a common language on which to discuss the core challenges of sustainable practice.
    • Social
    • Economic
    • Governance

Module 9


  • What is greenwashing?
  • Six Sins of Greenwashing
  • Three Steps to Avoid Greenwashing

Module 10: Final Assignment

The purpose of the final assignment is to test your ability to apply your understanding from the course concepts and tools.

  1. Choose an organisation that you work with
  2. Use the following 4 mechanisms to critically evaluate your chosen organisation.
    • The Funnel, Principles for sustainable practice, Backcasting, systems approaches.

Otago Polytechnic