Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The Lifestyle Project

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The Lifestyle Project

Article excerpt


The Lifestyle Project is a way for students to learn about environmental alternatives by modifying their own lifestyles. It is a three-week exercise for students to reduce their impact on the environment by changing the way in which they live from day to day. The project has fairly rigid parameters, allowing students to achieve a gradual but definitive change in their everyday habits. Students choose three categories from a list of six: heat, garbage, electricity and water, driving, eating, and activism. They write about their experiences in journals, which are incredibly insightful, illustrating just how profoundly the project affects them. At the end of the project, students have had an experience that may be life altering, affecting not only the students themselves, but also their friends and families. We felt that we unexpectedly stumbled across a real solution to an environmental problem.

Keywords: energy conservation, water conservation, waste reduction, environmental education.


The Lifestyle Project was created in 1993, borne out of a physical geology class discussion about Earth's resources that left students and teachers alike wondering about a creative approach to environmental awareness. The project was conceptualized rather hastily and was presented to the students during the following class. The vast majority of the students loved the idea and opted to take on the challenge. What followed was quite an amazing experience in education, wherein we all came face to face with our personal environmental decisions and experienced both triumphs and frustrations. When we read the students' journals that recorded their actions, thoughts and feelings throughout the Lifestyle Project, we were incredibly moved. Over the years the Lifestyle Project has been modified, offered in an additional course, and taught by several instructors. It has become a fixture in both our physical geology and environmental science courses.


The Lifestyle Project asks each student to choose three different ways in which they are interested in changing their habits. The possible categories are: use of electricity and water, heat, automobile usage, food consumption, waste production and environmental education or activism. For each category the rules are clearly defined, such as turning down the heat three degrees or eliminating the use of the car. Each week the project becomes more rigorous, as the students have to meet the requirements more frequently. For example, during the first week of the project students who have chosen the automobile usage category must spend two days without driving their car. Instead they must seek alternatives such as the campus bus, walking or bicycling. During the second week they must forego the comforts of their cars for three days. For the third and final week, they must leave their cars parked for four days. The idea is a gradual but definite change that follows a structure, rather than simply telling the students to drive their cars less.


For the project to be successful, some context should be provided within the course. This can be achieved several ways. Three options are presented here, which can be used alone or in combination. The critical point is that when the project begins the students need to be eager to take on the challenges. Otherwise they will not have enough incentive to really try out the alternatives that the project offers them.

Originally the project was introduced in a laboratory discussion about energy resources. We set up a mock town meeting to discuss a fictional campus-wide energy shortage and how to overcome it. Faced with the idea of adding a coal burning or nuclear power plant, or the complications of carpeting the campus with solar cells, the students realize that no form of energy is without significant environmental impacts. …

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