This post is part of the VET Gazette 3
Lidija Grmek Zupanc
head of the School Centre Kranj Vocational College and lecturer in Quality Assessment and Assurance course in the Economist vocational program


In Slovenia, we have recently striven to reform our curriculum and introduce novelties in different courses. As a lecturer in Quality Assessment and Assurance course in the Economist vocational program, I teach students also about packaging. In order to learn more, we saw a lecture conducted by Ana Volk Korže as part of the MUNERA 3 program, titled Understanding sustainable development. By adopting a professional and critical approach, she presented definitions in the field of sustainability. At first, the goal of sustainability was to integrate nature conservation and development in order to protect the environment. Later, however, the concept of sustainable development extended to sustainable development in the economy and even the society. 

According to the lecturer, the current definition of sustainable development is questionable: sustainable development is an economic activity responding to the needs of the modern society without depriving future generations. We can conclude that sustainable development can be defined as a lifestyle that is unselfish with regard to future generations. Volk Korže, however, sees flaws in this definition of sustainable development, as is 1. supports only the economy, 2. preserves and supports consumerism and exploitation of resources, which are already scarce, 3. wrongly assumes that future generations will have the same needs as the modern society, 4. places no restrictions, 5. foresees no changes, responsibilities nor savings, 6. presupposes that nobody is responsible and there are no deadlines.

Volk Korže also estimates that the word sustain (meaning preserve, conserve, maintain, bear) – permanence of something in a certain period – changes. It is more and more frequently associated with the term true sustainability, which encourages abstaining from material things, self-limitation and discipline, and is therefore not interesting from the political point of view (a summary of Ana Volk Korže’s lecture). 

Sustainability, addressed in the previous chapter, is related to circular economy. 

The Product Quality course addresses product life cycle. Students have no problems understanding that, in accordance with the concept of circular economy, the thinking process starts at the beginning, by coming up with an idea for a new product, and it takes places in all subsequent phases as well: determining functions and parameters, designing processes (smart product design), selecting production processes and choosing the mode of sale, use, maintenance and disposal. The chapter addressing packaging explains that the concept of positive material cycle, as part of circular economy, encourages reuse, repair and recycling, which contribute to resource saving and effective waste management. All things mentioned above also create new business opportunities.

Image 1: Circular Economy and Linear Economy 

Source: https://www.slideteam.net/business_powerpoint_diagrams/62294400-style-circular-loop-5-piece-powerpoint-presentation-diagram-infographic-slide.html

During lectures, students took a look at the Manj je več! (Less is more!) website (https://manjjevec.si/), created by Ecologists without Borders. It presents a map of handymen, information about stores without packed products, a calendar of events, e.g. clothes exchange in the vicinity, etc. The website also encourages us to think before we discard something, as humanitarian, non-governmental and other organizations give such things to those who need them. By browsing the website, we may find where to put used computer equipment or the things they collect for animal shelters (e.g. blankets, sheets, towels, etc.). 

4 TRAJNOSTNA EMBALAŽAŠtudentje so na seminarskih vajah reševali različne naloge, v ospredju vseh pa je bilo razmišljanje, kako pristopati k problemom na nov način, kakšna naj bo embalaža v krožnem gospodarstvu ipd. 

In a practical course, students browsed the internet to find some good examples of sustainable packaging. 

Volk Korže, A., 2020. Razumevanje trajnostnega razvoja. Munera 3. Poljčane, 11. 12. 2020. European Union, European Social Fund. Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Accessed at:  http://www.munera3.si/webinar-trajnostni-razvoj-in-resitve-v-podporo-okolju-in-druzbi/