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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse


Lesson Description:
Students first analyze typical contents of a North American trash can in order to define "luxury" and "necessity" for themselves. They read a short article about trash typically found in a modern dump in North Ameria. Using information from this reading, students will draw conclusions about how these artifacts reflect the lifestyle of those who used and disposed of the items. 

Students will: 
  • Engage in a critical analysis of consumption
  • Examine trends of modern disposal of materials goods in the United States
  • Analyze ways in which consumption choies reflect people's lifestyle and culture  

Lesson Type:
  • Group Work

Sustainability Topic:
  • Waste Reduction

Time Needed:
45 minutes
Standards Addressed:
National Council for the Social Studies 
  • I Culture
  • III People, Places, and Environments
  • VII Production, Distribution, and Consumption

National Science Education Standards
  • A Science as Inquiry
  • F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives 

Materials Needed:
  • Reused plastic or paper bags, each with a small assortment of "trash" materials, such as an empty beverage container, a magazine, a packaged food container, a household battery, and an intact piece of fruit - 1 bag per group of 4 students (Note: All items should be clean. Also, each bag does not need to contain identical items.) 
  • Handout: Buried Treasure, 1 per student or pair
  • Optional: Computer access for showing Story of Stuff segment  

School or Group:
Facing the Future (
Contact Email:
See entire unit at
Tags for searching:
Facing the Future
Located in: Science | Social Studies

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Center for Green Schools