Below is a list of international and national days and weeks to mark particular events or topics that promote education and awareness of sustainability. A summary of each event is given with some useful links to resources that could be accessed to use with students or spark a discussion.
2 October – World Habitat Day (UN)
The 17th UN World Habitat Day in 2023 has a theme of “Resilient urban economies. Cities as drivers of growth and recovery". It will look at how cities can position their economies to benefit residents. This could be a great day to explore how Australia could make urban living more sustainable.
- An article in The Conversation discusses how a sustainable Australia depends on what happens in our cities.
- Top 5 Most Sustainable Cities in the World in 2022 (Earth.org)
5 October – Energy Efficiency Day
Energy Efficiency Day is an initiative that emerged in 1998, with the idea to raise awareness about energy consumption. It means using less energy to do a specific task. In other words, it's about finding ways to avoid energy waste. In a household, energy consumption includes electricity, gas, and water. Lowering your energy consumption can help decrease your bills, increase the lifespan of appliances and electronics, emit less carbon and methane into the atmosphere.
This could be a great day to explore energy efficiency around a school or in a classroom.
- School Energy Audit (Greening Australia)
7 October – World Cotton Day (UN)
Cotton is one of the most common fabrics in our wardrobes. It is comfortable, hypoallergenic, breathable, durable and best of all it is a natural fibre.
- World cotton day video (UN)
- The Australian cotton story (Cotton Australia)
- Cotton can be composted in a home or school compost system and is best cut up into small pieces. It can also be recycled at many locations. Planet Ark has some ideas of where it can be recycled.
8-14 October – Earth Science Week
There are lots of great ways to celebrate Earth Science Week. Explore AusEarthEd activities available across a range of topics and year levels.
- Earth Science Week Activities (Geoscience Australia)
14 October – World e-waste Day
This is a day that aims to highlight the growing issue of electronic waste and promote responsible e-waste management. According to the UN, 8 kg of e-waste per person will be produced worldwide in 2023, and a lot of that will not be recycled with resources lost in landfill.
24 October – International Day of Climate Action
International Day of Climate Action is a worldwide movement initiated by young people concerned about climate change and global injustice. The environmental consequences include storms, intense drought, heatwaves, rising sea levels, warming of oceans, habitat destruction. This could be a great day to explore individual actions that can have an impact such as eating less meat and dairy, maybe start having a Meat Free Monday. Meat and dairy specifically account for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
1 November – World Vegan Day
November – World Vegan Month
Rainbow of fruits and vegetables (Credit: HBF private health insurance)
The Vegan Society, which turns 79 this year, initiated World Vegan Day in 1994. Many students particularly in upper high school are interested in exploring veganism. Perhaps host a vegan morning tea or lunch at your school.
- Vegan Recipes (Feasting at home)
5 November – World Tsunami Awareness Day (UN)
The #GetToHighGround campaign calls for a culture of tsunami and coastal hazards awareness for all people at risk. The #GetToHighGround campaign – to activate citizens through participation in a drill, a run, or a walk along tsunami evacuation routes. These activities raise awareness about reducing tsunami risk while helping communities to prepare their own tsunami resilience.
7 November – The Earthshot Prize 2023
On November 7th in Singapore the 2023 winners of the Earthshot prize will be announced. The Earthshot exists to discover, spotlight and help grow innovative solutions that are working to repair and regenerate our planet. It was set up in 2021 by Prince William with the support of Sir David Attenborough and this video introduces it. Each of the finalists in 5 categories wins ₤1 000 000 and receives mentoring to grow their solution. Nominations encompass the entire globe, and the judging panel represent many varied disciplines. The five categories are:
- Protect and restore nature – narrated by Bindi and Robert Irwin
- Clean our air
- Revive our oceans
- Build a waste-free world
- Fix our climate
- Living Seawalls – Finalist 2021 – Revive our oceans
- Indigenous women of the Great Barrier Reef – Winner 2022 – Revive our oceans
- Sea Forest – Finalist 2023 – Fix our climate
13-19 November – National Recycling Week
National Recycling Week (NRW) is one of Planet Ark’s flagship campaigns and every year aims to educate and empower people to do the right thing when they’re at the bin. Education also focuses on the waste hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle - to minimise strain on finite resources.
- The Planet Ark website has lots of resources and lists events happening during National Recycling Week.
19 November – World Toilet Day (UN)
In the ancient story, a hummingbird does what she can to fight a great fire – carrying droplets of water in her beak. Her actions – even though small – are helping solve a big problem. The 2023 theme is ‘Accelerating Change’, using the hummingbird to inspire people to take personal action to help improve toilets and sanitation systems. Toilets are a foundation stone of public health and play a critical role in protecting the environment. To leave so many people behind without safe toilets puts in jeopardy the entire 2030 UN Sustainability Agenda, with the poorest people, particularly women and girls, paying the highest price in terms of poor health, missed education, loss of productivity and general insecurity.
- A brief history of toilets (TED-Ed)
21 November – World Fisheries Day (UN)
The main purpose behind this day is to highlight the importance of sustainable stocks of fisheries in the world, to strengthen human rights for the small-scale fishing communities, to make a true difference in the working conditions of fishing communities and to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
26 November – World Sustainable Transport Day (UN)
Sustainable transport — with its objectives of universal access, enhanced safety, reduced environmental and climate impact, improved resilience, and greater efficiency — is central to sustainable development. In Australia the easiest ways to use sustainable transport is to walk, ride a bike or catch public transport.
- How to make the Australian transport system better (Climate Council)
5 December – World Soil Day (UN)
Did you know that there are more living organisms in a tablespoon of soil than people on Earth? Soil is made up of organisms, minerals, and organic components that provides food for humans and animals through plant growth. Soils need a balanced and varied supply of nutrients in appropriate amounts to be healthy. Agricultural systems lose nutrients with each harvest, and if soils are not managed sustainably, fertility is progressively lost, and soils will produce nutrient-deficient plants. Australia has some of the oldest and most degraded soils in the world. World Soil Day could be a great opportunity to explore the wonders of soil.
- Read these AusEarthEd articles to learn more about Australian soils and how to prevent erosion. Consider having students create an edible soil profile model for a yummy way to learn about soils.
- It’s time we stopped treating soil like dirt (Guardian video)
11 December – World Mountain Day (UN)
Restoring mountain ecosystems is the theme of the 2023 World Mountain Day. Mountains cover around 27 percent of the Earth's land surface and host about half of the world's biodiversity hotspots. As the water towers of the world, they supply freshwater to an estimated half of humanity. Mountains are home to an extraordinary range of plants and animals, and to many culturally diverse communities with different languages and traditions. From climate regulation and water provisioning services to soil maintenance and conservation, mountains are key to our lives and livelihoods.
- Earth’s landforms – Mountains (Next Generation Science video)
- For upper secondary students the following two resources explain the geology and formation of the Australian Alps and Great Dividing Range.
- Australia's Mountain Mystery: Why It Has One of the Longest Ranges in the World (OzGeographic video)
- Discover how geoscientists from the Victorian and NSW Geological Surveys and Geoscience Australia are learning more than ever before about the dynamic geological processes that are making the Australian Alps via the Southeast Lachlan Deep Crustal Seismic Reflection Survey. It includes a great explanation of how different geophysical techniques (gravity, magnetic and seismic) are used to measure different properties of rocks over large areas.