Sustainable Economics- The Triple Bottom Line

Food / Farming
Equity / Social Justice
Grade Level: 

Sustainable Economics: The Triple Bottom Line is an integrated, project based unit of study initially designed and piloted in a fourth/fifth grade classroom at the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes School.   This unit was designed using the lens of sustainability– that is, looking at the decisions consumers and producers make through the triples lens of the environment, the economy, and from an equity perspective.  The first half of the unit focuses on our decisions as consumers.  Students are introduced to the variety of factors that can be considered, including source, process, quality, and price, and delve further into the considerations of each of these factors.  Students participate in lessons that explore the impacts of these factors on the environment, economy, and people.  In the second phase of the unit, students switch gears and become producers as they applying their learning from phase one.  Students brainstorm a product, conduct market research, develop a business plan, and then carry their plan into production.


Download the entire unit here.

Grade level:                                     Fourth through Eighth  grade

Intended Outcome:                      Students will use their learning to be thoughtful consumers and producers.      

Enduring Understandings:     

  • The economy, environment, and humans are composed of interconnected systems.
  • Our decisions affect humans, the environment, and the economy.
  • You vote with your wallet.


Essential Question: How do  our decisions affect humans, the environment, and the economy?

Focusing Questions:

  • How do our decisions affect humans, the environment and the economy?
  • What are the factors to consider when purchasing a product (local, sustainable, price)?
  • What are the steps from idea to production?
  • Why is it important to create a product that considers both profit and the impact on community/environment?
  • How can I make the best choices as a consumer, given my circumstances?

Big Ideas of Sustainability:

  • Interdependence
  • Systems
  • Ability to make a difference
  • Equity

Skills: decision making, creating business planning, creating an annual report, identify and create a product or service that considers environmental and community needs, interview, persuasive writing, evaluating their choices as consumers


1. Decision-making Activity

2. Where did my product come from (source, systems)?

3. Local store vs. non-local store (source, economy)

4. Food miles (source, environment)

5. Label Decoding (process)

6. What is Fair Trade (process/source. equity)

7. Cocoa Farmers Simulation (process/source, equity)

8. Paper Towel Inquiry (quality, decision making)

9. Ice Cream Product Comparison (quality/price, decision making)

10. Choices– Roll the Dice (synthesis– transfer, decision making

11. The Lorax—Text analysis (could be written assessment)

12. School Supplies– Web 2.0 Project



1. From Consumer to producer

2. Our Class Business

3. Market Survey & Results

4. Field Trips/Interviews

5. Mission Statements

6. Business Plan

7. Pitch to Investor

8. Starting the Business

9. Annual Report

10. Profits

11. Running the Business

12. Reflection & Closing

13. Celebrate & Share

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