Education for Sustainability (EfS) is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend.
In 1987 the Brundtland Commission formally defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987)—echoing values and traditions of many cultural and geographical minorities worldwide. In 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, for the first time, discussions of sustainable development paid specific attention to the educational system.
Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 of the Rio Declaration directly addresses issues of education in relation to sustainable development in four main areas: (1) improve basic education, (2) reorient existing education to address sustainable development, (3) develop public understanding, awareness, and (4) training (McKeown et. al, 2002).
Responding to the political call to implement Education for Sustainable Development, in 1994, the Earth Charter was formed to reorient educational goals with respect to Chapter 36 of Agenda 21. As a result, many organizations, educators and individuals began to refine the original goals of Agenda 21 into their own practices.
Education for Sustainability was formed out of the recognition that there is a distinct difference between “education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development.” The former was seen to be a theoretical exercise while the latter asked for the educative process to be used as a tool to achieve sustainability (McKeown, 2002).
The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education was founded in 1995 as a program of The American Forum for Global Education known as the Sustainability Education Center. From its inception, The Cloud Institute has been a pioneer of Education for Sustainability. Jaimie P. Cloud, founder and president, has dedicated over fifteen years to distinguishing the importance of educating for sustainability, rather than about sustainability, in K-12 education systems.