A recipe for more sustainable Non-Formal Education

Discover our recipe for more sustainable Non-Formal Education



Article authors: Natalie Jivkova and Martens Langiewicz

Nowadays, sustainability is a big topic.

We are witnessing increasingly severe changes in nature, as well as their effects on our lives and the lives of our communities. We urgently need to start living in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and non-formal education activities are no exception – we must come up with greener methods to carry them out.

Remember that environmental sustainability improves our quality of life, protects our ecosystems, and preserves natural resources for current and future generations.

Here you will find some useful information along with tips and tricks for making non-formal education activities more environmentally friendly.

Examine the suggestions and see what applies to your activities. The list is not exhaustive but rather intended to provide you with some ideas and inspire you to look for more. The more we all do, the better!

WHAT – Let’s start with sharing our understanding of what it means to be environmentally friendly in non-formal education.

  • to be aware of the impact on the environment that different activities have
  • to reduce the negative impact we have on the environment, and keep it as low as possible
  • to be mindful of the bigger picture and apply the sustainability priorities while designing and achieving goals set for the project
  • to strive for more environmentally responsible behaviour led by example, and practice the values in everyday life
  • to save resources, reduce energy use, waste, and carbon footprint
  • to opt for sustainable food and mobility choices
  • to encourage and support active engagement and proactive behaviour for sustainable development in communities


WHY – And now to explore some benefits your more environmentally friendly activities will bring.

  • greener impact of the project
  • teaching eco-friendly practices through experience and setting an example for participants and communities
  • setting standards for sustainability in non-formal education
  • enhancing environmental awareness of participants and organisers
  • promoting and giving chance to experience different green solutions
  • better waste management and reduction of carbon footprint
  • action now for a better future


Our tips and tricks:

 Transport ?

  • encourage bus/train/shared car and no flying if the journey can be done in one day by bus/train/shared car
  • if travelling by plane, try to take a direct flight, or try to reduce the number of connecting flights (takeoff and landing account for 25% of the emissions produced during a standard flight)
  • as an incentive to travel green, provide funding for one or two nights’ accommodation each way, if the journey takes more than a day using on-land travel
  • encourage participants to use reusable water bottles during their travel instead of the free bottled water provided on the plane. They can refill their bottles at the airport after passing through security.
  • idea – if you travel green and it’s cheaper than traditional modes of travel, the remains of the unused funds can be donated to a green cause or charity


Food ?

  • less or no meat, vegetarian/vegan diets are more eco-friendly
  • provide locally sourced, seasonal, organic food
  • use reusable dishes
  • give flexibility to participants to cancel a meal if they know that they will not eat it (because of religious fasting, food preferences, etc.)
  • planning the amount of food and meal times accordingly to the participants’ needs, so there is no food waste
  • buffet style/self-service with instructions not to take more than you can eat
  • when possible, repurpose leftover food for future meals and compost the remaining (BUT do not compost cooked food, meat, or dairy products)
  • arrange to donate the excess food to homeless or animal shelters
  • provide healthy snacks for breaks (fruits, nuts), and avoid packaged food/sweets with palm tree oil


Resources ?

  • host the training within a country with more reusable energy sources and an efficient recycling system
  • inform participants ahead of time that they should bring their own notebook, pen, folder, and refillable bottle.
  • use sustainable materials wherever possible, e.g. recycled paper, coloured pencils instead of felt pens/markers
  • avoid plastic use
  • provide the materials in electronic version instead of print-outs
  • reuse or recycle the used materials, e.g. posters


Venue ⛺️

  • choose a hotel/accommodation that uses green/sustainable practices
  • if possible, host the event in a place using renewable energy resources
  • provide shared rooms for the participants
  • find and use a training room with access to natural light
  • save energy – unplug your fridge if you don’t use it, switch off the lights/air-conditioning when you don’t use them, use energy-saving bulbs or led lights
  • encourage shorter showers
  • provide recycled toilet paper
  • teach people how recycling is done at the accommodation place
  • organise recycling management system and compost bins in the training room
  • avoid air-conditioning, if possible



  • dedicate time to share with the participants why you apply green practices, why they are important
  • find experts within the group who can share more in-depth/practical information about sustainable practices (e.g. why and how to compost)
  • create an informational poster that participants can download, print, and distribute in their communities and organisations

The article was written in 2022 in the frame of the Learning Lab(oratory) – quality non-formal education in the digital world project (2021-1-PL01-KA153-YOU-000018791) by SCI Poland, co-funded by the European Union. The project supported the development of civil society, with people who can learn from each other and want to share their knowledge for the benefit of others – through high-quality non-formal education.

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