Encouraging sustainability in schools and on campus is always a worthy cause. After all, even if we could fix all of the world’s environmental problems with the snap of a finger, making sure we don’t unnecessarily waste our drinking water or any other resources throughout our lives would still be the downright polite thing to do. Not to mention the moral thing to do.

That said, just because “sustainable” has become a buzzword in the last couple of decades, that doesn’t mean that educators should assume students know why sustainability is important. Or even what it means to try and live a sustainable lifestyle. With that in mind, let’s go over some of the simplest and most effective arguments that can be used when discussing sustainability in a classroom.

The moral argument

While there are many ways to define what constitutes a “sustainable lifestyle”, for this text we’ll be defining it as “A sustainable lifestyle that involves doing your best to reduce your use of Earth’s natural resources, paying particular attention to how much you waste intentionally or unintentionally.”

There are many good arguments in favor of attempting to be more sustainable. One of them is that Earth’s resources are limited, and we should do our best to preserve them. Not only for ourselves, but also for future generations.

And kids may argue — as adults do — that the conscientious actions of one person may not make a big difference in the long run. Whether or not that’s true isn’t relevant here, because the best argument against that notion is simply personal responsibility. Because whether or not it makes a difference, by not engaging in wasteful behavior you can at least make sure you’re not responsible for actively making things worse.

The financial argument

One good thing to point out in classroom environments is that becoming sustainable is not only getting easier and more affordable year after year but there are many areas in which sustainability can help you save money. Of course, most students in high school and even in college are not in a position where they get to make major purchasing decisions. But bringing this up is important because the public discourse on going green and being sustainable often frames these concepts as some sort of major personal sacrifice.

It can be hard to have a more sustainable lifestyle. And at times it will mean not getting something shiny, new, and cool because buying used goods is the more sustainable thing to do. But there are also situations where people get a financial incentive in favor of being sustainable. Sometimes those incentives are due to how technology is evolving, and sometimes they’re straight up a rebate or tax cut mandated by law. But no matter the case, it doesn’t change the fact that some sustainable options are becoming popular even among people who don’t particularly care for the environment. Popular examples of this include solar panels, LED lamps, electric cars, and more.

Talk to students. Tell them that even if they don’t want to make personal sacrifices to be sustainable, they can still make a difference just by keeping an eye out for sustainable solutions and technology that can also help them save money. The list of solutions that fit this description is long, and it’s only getting longer year after year.