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Embedding Sustainability in Further Education with Digital Tools

Woman working on a laptop

There’s no denying that sustainability has been critically important for students globally over the last few years; and following the school climate strikes started by Greta Thunberg in 2018, schools, colleges and governments have started to listen and make changes to their curriculums. In 2020, the Climate Action Roadmap was launched to help FE (Further Education) colleges reach “net zero” across a number of strands, one of which is teaching, learning and research. Within this strand, colleges are advised to deliver carbon literacy training to staff and students as well as support staff in embedding sustainability in Education within their curriculums.

In this academic year, I have been leading the development of carbon literacy awareness for Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (GBMET) as part of the wider Greener Sussex collaboration between colleges and employers in the area. This has involved launching a short L3 Carbon Literacy Qualification for students developed by The Carbon Literacy Project, as well as training and supporting tutors to embed sustainability within existing courses.

As a member of the digital team, I was keen to utilise Google Workspace and other digital tools to support the delivery of this content (with the added benefit of Google being carbon neutral since 2007). In this article, I will share some useful features that helped me to do this effectively.

Online Carbon Literacy Training

The materials provided by the Carbon Literacy Project (developed with Manchester Metropolitan University) consisted of five modules with slides that could be delivered to students either online or face-to-face. Using the online delivery resources, we decided to adapt them so the majority of the course could be self-paced, allowing our students to dip in and out of the content around their main course and other commitments. Delivering in this way also meant the course was paper-free and removed the need for students to travel to in-person lessons, making it more sustainable.

We adapted the course to be delivered via Google Classroom, making use of several Workspace features and other tools to support students throughout and scaffold their learning.

Using Google Classroom

Scheduling Posts

Google Classroom - Scheduling Posts

The five modules were designed to be completed over five weeks and each week I posted on the Stream to let the learners know the topic and tasks for that week. Using the ‘schedule’ feature meant that I could save time by writing these posts in advance and setting them to post on the Classroom at the same time each week.


Google Classroom - Topics

On the Classwork page, the topics were organised by module, making it easy for the learners to navigate to the weekly tasks. Although I posted announcements reminding students of their work on a weekly basis, all modules were available to students from the beginning, which allowed them to work flexibly and at their own pace.


Google Classroom - Questions

At the end of each week I’d post a “Question” under that week’s topic to help learners consolidate their knowledge and allow me to check their understanding of the content. Additionally, the setting “students can reply to each other” was turned on to facilitate discussion.

Google Meet

The course consisted of some synchronous webinars to support students with their final assignment. Making use of the Google Meet link within the Classroom made this easy for learners to find and meant that only the students who were enrolled in the course could join the meeting.



For their final assignment, learners had to write individual and group pledges for reducing their carbon footprint. This was assigned in Classroom so that it was easy to manage, submit, and mark. Turning the criteria into a rubric meant that learners could easily see what was expected of them as well as speed up the marking process.

Google Forms

Google Forms are a great tool for assessment and can be used for quizzes and surveys. In this course we used Forms for pre-course and post-course questionnaires which helped with evaluating the impact that the course had on the learners. The responses to both Forms were linked to different tabs on a single Google Sheet which allowed for easy comparison and analysis.

Interactive Student-Paced Slides

Adding interactivity to Google Slides can help with ongoing formative assessment and student engagement which ultimately supports student learning. Two great

add-ons for Google Slides are Pear Deck and Nearpod which allow teachers to scatter interactive questions throughout the slides. We used these interactive tools within our Google Slides lessons, then set the slides as Classroom Assignments within each module in Google Classroom that students could work through at their own pace while tracking their own progress.

All of these features and tools supported the transformation of this course into one that was interactive, engaging and accessible to all learners.

Sustainability & Education: Additional Resources

The ultimate goal was to embed carbon literacy and sustainability within all FE courses so that it is relevant to the course and the chosen profession of the students, preparing them for a more sustainable future. If you’re looking to integrate some sustainability-related content into your courses, here are a few more tools and activities which can be used across all subjects.


Jamboard is a great all-round tool for quick collaborative starter activities. Teachers in several subjects at GBMET including Hair & Beauty and Motor Vehicle have been using it to understand student’s prior knowledge about sustainability in their course areas.


Your Plan, Your Planet

Your Plan, Your Planet is a great interactive tool from Google which helps you to understand the environmental impact of everyday actions and how you can reduce them. This was used in the Carbon Literacy course to support a module on Carbon Footprints but is also a great starter activity in any subject to get students thinking about their own impact.



Quizlet is a digital flashcard tool that has been used across subject areas to help introduce key sustainability terms to students. It has been particularly successful in Catering and Hair & Beauty to introduce students to labels and certifications to look out for on the products they use.


Finally, students in some subjects have been asked to create social media posts to promote their top sustainable tips related to their profession. Canva is a great tool for this as it’s an easy-to-use, browser-based design tool with hundreds of templates to help learners get started - plus it is free for educators!

Mia Pledger

This article was featured in the Summer 2022 issue of the Canopy Education Magazine.


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