RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION- In this lesson students will discuss the responsible consumption and production practices that counteract the factors that are causing climate change and growing trash problems globally.


Prior Learning
Knowledge and understanding of:
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The Sustainable Development Goals



Circular Economy: an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

Climate Change: a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Sustainability: the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.



  1. Discuss the practices that can be conducted at home to practice responsible consumption.

  2. Understand the impacts of over-consumption and irresponsible production on the environment.

  3. Learn methods and practices to correct the practices of over-consumption and irresponsible production.




Physical- Restless Atmosphere

Physical- Restless Atmosphere









G12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns



  • Implement the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries

  • By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources

  • By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses

  • By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment

  • By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

  • Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle

  • Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities

  • By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature

  • Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production

  • Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

  • Rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities




The making of plastics has long been a financial mean of making products sheep. However, the oil byproduct, has been proven to be detrimental to the enthronement. What was once considered a simple, cost effective way of making products and packaging, has now been considered one of the worst environment impacts of the 21st century. 

According to estimates, every year we use approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil just for producing plastic water bottles. Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose. Normally, plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills. But plastic bags we use in our everyday life take 10-1000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.

Cotton and Agriculture

In many ways, agriculture can reverse many negative effects of climate change. For instance, plants and crops can take in the amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. In large part, the practices of local farmers helps the environment and provides necessary and nutritious produce for communities globally. However, the overproduction of agriculture in many areas around the world deplete land of their nutrients and minerals. 

One of these cases can be seen in India where the majority of the world's cotton is grown. Producing 5.97 million tonnes in their 2017 financial year, according to figures from the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC). Forecasts for 2018 have estimated that this will rise by 1 million tonnes with no sign of lessening. The mass amounts of cotton that is cultivated in India have nearly depleted their water table, with giving no time for their land to rest.

In many countries, like India, cotton and other cash crops call for extreme amounts of pesticides to be used. This overuse of pesticides sinks into the soil and ground water, contaminating fresh water reserves and even drinking water. 

Cattle and Livestock

Cattle accounts for 1/3 of all of Ireland'c pollution and carbon emissions! This is the single biggest source of carbon emissions.


Pound for pound, beef uses 10 times more resources than raising chicken or turkey. Focus in on the water required to produce beef and the numbers are even more staggering. Producing just one pound of beef requires over 1,800 gallons of water, whereas producing a loaf of bread requires only 240 gallons.



Water Taste Test

You can conduct a water taste test in your own class! To do this you will need bottle water, paper cups, and tap water.

Have a blind taste test of both tap water and bottled water.

Which water did they like better? 

Could they tell the difference?

Note: If students pick the bottled water for the taste test ask them what were the main differences of the water. 

Is it important to provide citizens with clean, safe drinking water? How does that relate to survival rights?


The long journey of our stuff to reach us can often involve countless countries, companies, and individuals. With the constant change in hands of things we use on a daily basis, how do we know things are handled ethically?

With your class, think of the journey of the four items listed. The exercise should spur on thinking of the items, and the answers are not literal. 

In many cases the items cannot be tracked fully due to the sheer amount of hours, miles, and manpower that takes to create these items. 

Discuss why it is so difficult to track your the things that are sold globally.

Download the full activity here:  



What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is the modern fashion trend - new products are constantly available, people are clamouring to stay on top of the latest styles, and consumers are fighting to get into stores before products are “gone”,  Fast fashion is designed by retailers, to keep us wanting more because they tell us that what we bought yesterday is not in style today.  But what is the problem with cheap/affordable, stylish clothing?

Was it always this way?

In the 1950's people spent 10% of their annual income on clothing and today people spent less than 3% on clothing.  Fashion may have been more expensive, but it was higher quality and lasted longer compared to clothing today which will fall apart after a few wears.  In the 1950’s people used to buy clothing and wear it on a regular basis, today people only wear 20% of their wardrobe on a regular basis - a single item of clothing may be worn 7 times before it is thrown away, it is considered “out of fashion” after 3 wears.  Consumers are encouraged to buy more at this point because of how much is available in fast fashion stores and how frequently new styles are available.

Why should we care about fast fashion?

It effects the environment!

More than 20 articles of clothing per person in the world (150 billion items) are produced every year.  Production of clothing just between 2000 and 2014 has increased by 60%.  People today will wear a single item an average of 7 times before throwing it away.  99% of textiles are recyclable, but our capacity to do so is not as high.  Only 25% of textiles in Britain are processed through sorting plants.  The rest are thrown away and sent to landfills - but in April 2018, China (a top recipient for textile waste) announced it would not take in any more textile waste.  So what are we going to do?  More textiles to the landfills… or the waste ring.


The fashion industry is one of the wealthiest industries in the world, competing with the oil industry for wealth!  So it should come as no surprise that it is also a leading polluter.  10% of the carbon footprint can be traced back to the fashion industry while it is the second highest polluter of clean water.  Clean water pollution is due to the toxic dyes used to make our clothing bright and colorful.  But these dyes are also known to pose as health risks for the workers using them from illness to birth defects to cancer and even death.  If that happens from just working with the dyes, think about what the fish and birds who live in the water experience...

It compromises human rights!

1 in 6 people work in the fashion industry - 75 million of those people work to make the clothes we wear.  80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35 who experience daily sexual abuse - over 540 incident complaints filed from Southeast Asian factories over six months.  What is happening that is not being reported?  Children younger than 14 are known to work in these sweatshops.  This means they cannot attend school or play - they are trapped making clothes every day.


People are expected to work 7 days a week with compulsory overtime.  Workers get paid 21% of a living wage cost - meaning most fashion workers live in poverty.  50% of the pricetag goes to the retailer, 25% to the brand, and the remaining 25% pay for manufacturing costs, transit, overhead, and finally the workers.


Buildings where the sweatshops are located are so poorly cared for that there have been fires and infrastructure collapses killing dozens to hundreds.  Hundreds have died due to fire, exposure to chemicals, and poor building infrastructure


The Spice Girls scandal was surrounded by an equality for women campaign. In actuality, the t-shirts were made by Bangladeshi women earning just 35p an hour and working 54 hours a week. 

Women in the factory were expected to sew 2,000 a day, 


Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for greater transparency,
sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry.

We want to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.


Where were your clothes made? 

Ask everyone in the class to look at the item of clothing that they are wearing. There should be a tag in which the item identifies the country where it was made. Tags will often say Bangladesh or Indonesia. 

After the students identify the origin country of their item of clothing, have students research the clothing industry of their country. 


What did they learn about the industry of the country their clothing is from? Is it historically ethical or unethical? Who handled your clothes? Does this make you question the brand/company that you bought your item from (positive or negative)?

How many people in the class had seemingly unethical/ethical clothing? Were there anybody with ethical clothing? What does this say about the clothing industry?


Watch the Film "The True Cost"


After the film discuss your thoughts and emotions. Did the film make you change your thinking or perception on the clothing industry?

"The True Cost" website (here) has helpful tips and articles on the subject. The one below can be something that you and your viewing party can pledge to. 


By Lucy Siegle


The rapid turnover of trends characterising Fast Fashion means clothes are disposable. Along with the deflation of clothing prices this has put the supply chain under unprecedented pressure leading directly to outrages like Rana Plaza and Tazreen (the 2012 Dhaka fashion factory fire that killed over 100).  Just asking yourself if you will wear a prospective item 30 times is a great place to start shopping smarter and more intentional.


The traditional spring/summer autumn/winter of international fashion weeks is just for show. Zara, the Spanish fast fashion behemoth broke the mold, introducing mini seasons every week. 50-100 new micro seasons a year is the new normal. So slow down your fashion cycle.


The global fashion industry is worth $2.5 trillion. Shouldn’t this be shared? Look for producer centric brands like People Tree run to rigorous Fairtrade standards with longstanding producer groups who get a fair share of the profits.


Fashion is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil. Notably, Azodyes are still the most used synthetic dyes despite being toxic. 10% of the world’s biggest fashion brands have committed to phasing out toxic substances through Greenpeace’s Detox programme. Check the list here.


Be the change you want to see in your wardrobe (to paraphrase Gandhi). Fashion Revolution (fashionrevolution.org) represents millions of consumers who want change and also commemorates Rana Plaza by putting pressure on the brands to increase transparency and empowers consumers to be inquisitive about #whomadetheirclothes.

Watch the Film "Flow"

The "FLOW" Trailer can be found below:


What are the major impacts of privitization of water? 

After watching the video, what do you think is an important Privatization of water has been an increasingly common practice.


Example: Research Coca-cola recent acquisition of the largest clean water source in South America. 

Should privatization of water be allowed? How about the the Irish context of water privatization-- Is access to water a right?

Watch the Film, "Nike; Behind the Swoosh", below:


Separate into groups of 2-3 people and discuss the film. Use the questions below as a guide.

Are you surprised by the practices of Nike?

Does this change your opinion on the brand or other brands that have been publicly shown to be users of foreign sweatshops? 

What was the most shocking part of the film?

Have you/ will you still buy products that use this method of production?

How are these companies still successful even with these practices?

At Home:

Research another company that has been implicated with questionable business practices. Answer the above questions and your own opinions. 

Global Inequality

Discussion Points: Global inequality is created through choices people make every day. The main choice we all have the power to change is in what we buy.

• After sweets and food, clothes are among the items most commonly bought by your age group.

• Do you think you make ethical choices in what you buy and who you choose to buy from?

• Ask participants to call out what brands / shops they like to buy and list on a flipchart. Ask participants to guess the rating they would give to each of the brands they listed on the flipchart. Assign each brand to 2-3 participants to research on their own at home. Ask them to bring back the actual rating to share with the group.

Two helpful sites for most brands are www.ethicalconsumer.org and www.goodguide.com.

Introduce participants to the idea of an Ethical Consumerism Action Project. Suggest to participants that this might help them feel empowered to bring about change through the rest of the workshops.




Students throughout Ireland have already taken initiative for sustainable, green initiative. To see what your peers have accomplished, please click here.  

Campaigns against over-production and excess waste in your communities make huge differences. Ideas to implement in your communities:

  • Leave plastic behind initiative

  • No disposable cups

  • Support sustainable businesses

  • recycle!

Take a stand against fast Fashion!

Raise awareness of the issues surrounding the modern beauty industry, businesses will listen!

YOU are their client and they want to make YOU happy!

Businesses have been known to make changes - independent reviews have been set up after disasters to monitor and report to the public about the ethical conditions for fashion workers.  In response to public demand, outcry, and shopping choices, H&M began a conscientious line so you can keep shopping at your normal store and buy clothing that you know is ethically sourced.  This line may be a little more expensive, but at least you know people are safe!  H&M also set up a recycling program to reduce waste - if you bring in your own clothes you get 15% off your next purchase which you can put toward the conscientious line!


Together, activists can protect the lives of hundreds, help keep people safe in their work environment, earn living wages, and give kids the freedom to go to school.  Businesses are constantly caught participating in unethical business practices.  Join protests, send letters, post on social media, and keep the conversation going.  Businesses want you to be happy, you are their client, so use your power to pressure for change.


Responsible consumerism - think about what you are buying. Shopping is not bad, in fact it is one of the largest markets in the global economy.  One in six people work in the world in the fashion industry.  What is important to take away is awareness.  Make smart purchases - know the difference between what you want, what you need, and what you love.  Buy the things you need and love to make sure you will wear them again and again.  Look at the price tag to see where the item was made, and if it is in a country that you know has a history of abuses, then it is probably safe to assume that article of clothing was part of that abuse.  Move on, find something similar, and be responsible.

This workshop was written and designed by:

Caitlin Banke is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Business from Menlo College and will be concluding her Masters Degree from Trinity College Dublin in International Peace Studies in November 2018. Caitlin has focused her studies and work around women and children's issues.


UNICEF Ireland wants to support you to start a global movement for change beginning in our own communities. Stay connected online with other activists like you. 


If you would like more information, getting involved or posting a blog about your activism, please email us at itsaboutus@unicef.ie

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