Community Learning Modules

Knowledge is the key to unlocking unexplored potential, the ability to make informed decisions and effectively engage in the sustainability agenda for our region.

The below learning modules have been carefully selected and relate directly to the sustainability objectives for the Singleton local government area in particular. Each module explores key concepts and terminology used within the Singleton Sustainability Strategy and the frameworks that have guided the objectives and outcomes within.

What is intergenerational equity?

Intergenerational Equity is defined as:

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”

It articulates the concept of fairness amongst all generations in the use and conservation of the environment and its natural resources.

In the 1980s, Edith Brown Weiss identified the principle of intergenerational equity, in which all generations hold the Earth in common as a trust. Meaning that, people are both beneficiaries entitled to use the environment and its resources, and at the same time trustees (or custodians) with an obligation to pass it on in no worse condition on balance than that in which it was received.

The elements of the principle meet four criteria: 

  • They neither authorise unreasonable exploitation by the present generation nor impose unreasonable burdens on it
  • They not require predicting the values of future generations and provide flexibility to future generations to achieve their own goals
  • They be reasonably clear in application to foreseeable situation
  • They be generally shared by different cultural traditions and acceptable to different economic and political system

How do we achieve intergenerational equity? 

Collectively, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a starting point for intergenerational equity. For further information on the Sustainable Development Goals, click here 

What can I do?

  • Become knowledgeable about SDGs
  • Make informed, sustainable purchases
  • Implement personal sustainability practices at home
  • Be engaged in local community sustainability efforts (Sustainability Calendar)
  • Make a commitment to take action (Sustainable Singleton Pledges)

What is the waste hierarchy?

The Waste Hierarchy is a set of priorities for the efficient use of resources and underpins the objectives of the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001.

The Waste Hierarchy.png

 Avoidance (Pollution Prevention) 

Avoiding and reducing the generation of waste is the highest priority of the waste hierarchy and seeks to eliminate the need to extract and use virgin materials. 

Maximising efficiency of resources used in products we purchase and avoiding unnecessary consumption can be achieved by:

  • selecting items with the least packaging or that require the fewest resources to produce 
  • avoiding disposable goods or single-use materials 
  • buying products that are recycled, recyclable, repairable, refillable, re-usable or biodegradable 
  • using leftover food rather than throwing it away

 Resource Recovery (Circular Economy) 

Resource recovery is the second priority of the waste hierarchy and details that where avoiding and reducing waste is not possible, the next most preferred option is to re-use the materials without further processing. For example:

  • Repairing
  • re-using
  • selling
  • donating/gifting. 

Re-using and recycling materials keep them in the circular economy. This not only decreases waste disposal volumes, but reduces the need to extract and use virgin materials. 

 Disposal (Waste Management)

The Waste Hierarchy recognises that some waste types cannot be safely recycled and that disposal is then the most appropriate management option.

 What can I do? 

  • Consider the priorities of the Waste Hierarchy when purchasing a product or when a product you own is no longer of any use
  • Where possible, say no to single use products, unnecessary packaging and printing
  • Invest in the tools required to make sustainable purchases;
    • reusable shopping bags
    • reusable homewares (reusable cutlery sets, lunchboxes, keep cups and drink bottles)
    • beeswax wraps (alternative for plastic wrap)
    • home toolkit for repair work
    • home bin systems enabling waste separation
  • Be motivated to separate waste products and valuable recycling resources (familiarise yourself with what constitutes contamination)
  • Become knowledgeable about what resources and opportunities are available to you 

What is the triple bottom line?

Traditionally, the term ‘bottom line’ referred to profit. Simply put, businesses prioritised their bottom line a critical aspect of decision making.

The Triple Bottom Line is a sustainability framework that builds on this concept and recognises that while it is important to measure economic outcomes, it is equally as important to measure social and environmental elements when accounting for the true cost of something.



Economic Sustainability 

The bottom line of Economic Sustainability requires measuring the impacts and advantages for the local economic environment and facilitating opportunities for responsible, sustainable growth. Including, but not limited to:

  • tourism
  • procurement
  • up front and ongoing costs
  • risks and liability
  • long term financial planning
  • supporting local economy

Social Sustainability 

The bottom line of Social Sustainability requires consideration of social impacts and advantages for the local community and facilitating opportunities for responsible, sustainable growth. Including, but not limited to:

  • access and equity
  • culture and heritage
  • provision of community facilities and recreation
  • built environment
  • affordable housing and living
  • public health and safety
  • modern slavery
  • education
  • support services

Environmental Sustainability

Controlling our environmental bottom line requires managing, monitoring and reporting our emissions, consumption and waste. Including but not limited to:

  • energy
  • water
  • waste
  • biodiversity
  • air quality
  • pollution
  • climate change

What can I do?

  • Review the 2019-2027 Singleton Sustainability Strategy 
  • Consider the Waste Hierarchy and be committed to prioritising your waste (and purchasing) in accordance to the structure
  • Know what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are and why they are so important (Paris Agreement) 
  • Become knowledgeable about what resources and opportunities are available to you in your local area and actively participate in what you can

What is the Paris Agreement?

On 12 December  2015, all countries that signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) came together in Paris at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) to discuss the threat of climate change. The parties agreed upon a united, accelerated effort to combat climate change by lowering global carbon emissions and aimed to stabilise a global temperature rise of well below 2°C this century.

To review the full UNFCCC COD 21 Report, click here.

What are carbon emissions and what causes them?

In its most basic form, Carbon is an element and is the most common element of life on earth. It is quite literally everywhere! Our bodies are made up of it, it’s in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we purchase and use.

Carbon emissions however, refer more specifically to Carbon Dioxide (CO2).

Carbon Dioxide (a greenhouse gas) is emitted in a variety of different ways, naturally and man-made.  For example (but not limited to):




CO2absorbed by the ocean is used by marine life (both animal and plant) and makes its way back to the surface and is re-emitted back into the atmosphere as the life form respires and decays (this is the case for both plant and animal species on land also)

Power Generation

Electric power generation is the greatest source of man-made CO2emission to the atmosphere.


Humans, animals and plants emit CO2when they exhale.


Cars, motorbikes, trucks, buses, trains…


Forest fires and volcanic eruptions

Industry and agriculture

Operating machinery,farmingpractices..

Plants use CO2in photosynthesis to form energy that they store and use to carry out their life functions. Oxygen is produced as a by-product of this process.

These types of human activities rely on the burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gases) to function and lead to increased CO2emissions as a by-product.


Why are excessive carbon emissions harmful?  

Our earth has capably generated, absorbed and cycled through carbon dioxide naturally for generations. It is designed to manage natural CO2 emissions.

As a result of the Industrial Revolution, man-made carbon emissions have increased by approximately 31% and have begun to exceed the capacity for which the earth can process. The excess emissions build up in the atmosphere, resulting in the greenhouse effect and climate change outcomes, such as global warming.

Picture the earth as a 2 litre bowl and imagine it filled with exactly 2 litres of water. The bowl can easily handle the 2litres. Now, imagine attempting to add another cup and see it overflow. The problem isn’t the bowl or that it is already full – the bowl is designed to handle that much water. The problem is the extra cup!

Restoring the Earth’s natural carbon cycle and protecting our planet from climate change is the ultimate goal.

 What can I do?

  • Becoming knowledgeable is the first step to making informed, sustainable choices.
  • Know what the Paris agreement is, who is involved and why lowering carbon emissions is important.
  • Know what the Sustainable Development Goals are, their importance and how we go about achieving them.
  • Know what the Waste Hierarchy is and prioritise your waste accordingly
  • Know what initiatives and programs are available to you in your local area and actively participate in what you can
  • Consider your personal emissions and implement strategies to lower your own footprint by;
    • reviewing your energy efficiency
    • use of sustainable alternatives such as solar power and electronic vehicles
    • avoid CO2  by opting to walk, ride or carpool where possible
    • make sustainable purchases (from companies that are committed to reducing their own emissions)

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere!

There are 17 Goals in total, those being: 

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education 
  5. General Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships
The 17 Goals were adopted by all United Nation Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which sets out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.


The decade of global action seeks to deliver the SDGs by:

  1. Global Action: Working together to secure greater leadership, more resources and smarter solutions for SDGs
  2. Local Action: Embedding the transitions in policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks of governments, cities and local authorities
  3. People Action: Generating an unstoppable movement of youth, civil society, media, private sector, unions, academia and more – all pushing for transformation

What can I do?

Becoming knowledgeable is the first step to becoming part of the solution. Understanding:

  • what the SDGs are;
  • why it is important that we achieve them;
  • ways in which you can personally implement sustainable practices;
  • what local resources/initiatives/programs are available to assist you.

Once you are informed, commit to taking action by putting what you’ve learnt into practice.

Be a responsible consumer:

  • consider the Waste Hierarchy;
  • prioritise recycling: source separate your waste products to ensure you are saving as many valuable resources as you can;
  • save non-renewable resources (water, energy, gas, oil);
  • choose paperless and plastic free alternatives;
  • shop locally (with your own bags)

Be a responsible community member:

  • ensure your families immunisation remain up to date
  • make an informed vote for leaders in our country and local community
  • walk, ride or carpool
  • donate quality goods to charity organisations
  • participate in local events, initiatives and programs

What is a circular economy?

The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) defines the term circular economy as valuing resources by keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible.

By valuing waste resources as a commodity (an item of trade or commerce), recyclable materials enter into a cycle of reuse and repurpose and directly decreases the need to extract raw, non-renewable materials.

Changing the way we produce, assemble, sell and use things ultimately results in minimising waste, reducing our environmental impact and enhancing the economy through encourages innovation and job growth.

Why is a circular economy important?

Historically, waste has been processed in a mostly linear economy – take, make and dispose. It has been identified that this current pattern of resource use and waste generation is no longer sustainable. A circular economy is the most appropriate alternative.

Circular Economy.png

Moving to a circular economy will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for not only our town, but our country and the entire global community. The transition will generate jobs, create a more robust economy, increase the accessibility of goods, maximise the value of resources and reduce waste.

What can I do?

Circular economy is all about rethinking waste and changing our behaviours towards consuming and usage.

Rethink your consumption and wastage:

  • Confront textile and e-Waste by questioning the need for new gadgets, handbags, shoes, outfits
  • Confront food waste by buying only what you intent to use, compost what you can’t
  • Confront plastic waste by avoidance strategies and investing in the tools required  
  • Confront general waste by repairing, repurposing or gifting
  • Confront energy consumption by installing solar and/or being frugal with your energy needs (turn things off at the power point when you’re not using them)
  • Confront fuel consumption by walking or riding, carpooling or taking public transport

Rethink your buying habits:

  •  When preparing to make a purchase (no matter the purpose of the product or the resource the product is made from) consider;
    • Purchasing second-hand or refurbished
    • Renting or borrowing
    • The packaging associated with a product (is it recyclable and is there a better alternative, such as choosing glass jars over plastic ones)
    • The company you are investing in:
      • What has the company done to responsibly address corporate sustainability (policies and practices) and what actions have they taken towards their carbon emissions?
      • Are they local and will your investment feed back into your local economy?

For further information, check out the Australian Circular Economy (ACE) Hub and the NSW Circular Economy Policy Statement