Pollution Prevention Pedagogy

The Office of International Activities (OIA) of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a variety of training classes on several different subjects. The training course available on the fundamentals of pollution prevention and clean technology has been completely revised, rewritten and internationally tested in countries such as China and South Africa. In September 1999, EPA issued a draft manual on the refreshed course.

The training course has been redesigned to teach the basic methods and concepts of pollution prevention and cleaner production and to learn how to communicate pollution prevention to others. It does not provide detailed information on pollution prevention chemistry or technologies, but does help the participant learn where to find such specific information. The emphasis is on environmental management through source reduction and is designed as a train-the-communicator course for people in government, academe, industry and non-profit organizations who are responsible for communicating pollution prevention and cleaner production concepts.

Some don't find EPA's approach the most beneficial one for teaching and attaining pollution prevention and cleaner production.

"The EPA approach is the classic auditors' approach, based on projects to identify pollution prevention opportunities and analyze them. In contrast, some advocate a different approach, in which environmental issues are used only as priorities, and the focus is on helping firms implement Total Quality Management (TQM) practices that include environmental considerations. I think this has more long-lasting results because it is based on system changes, not on finding and fixing particular problems. EPA promotes doing an assessment and creating a pollution prevention program to implement the results. We say, set up a TQM program and use environmental risk assessment and other tools to determine where to focus your TQM efforts," said International Pollution Prevention Trainer, Burton Hamner, who does work for the Agency of International Development.

According to the EPA, the course uses facilitated techniques to foster participatory learning from case studies, interactive exercises, problem-solving techniques and group discussions. This helps participants identify a potential framework for developing a pollution prevention program in their own country.

"The most important idea is to be creative and have fun with the training course. The training course presented in this manual is merely a guide and can be altered and changed according to your experiences, the experiences of the participants, the goals of the course and the length of time available," reads U.S. EPA's OIA's Principles of Pollution Prevention and Cleaner Production Facilitator's Draft Manual, page three.

There are eight major sections with a compendium of cleaner production exercises and quizzes. Included in the draft (which may be found at www.cleanerproduction.com) is a facilitator's manual with appendices and a participant's manual with a 61-page appendix describing successful pollution prevention case studies, such as those at Miller Brewing Company and an Australian aluminum smelter.

At the end of this course, according to the EPA OIA, participants should:

  • have a general understanding of industrial pollution prevention programs and be able to facilitate that learning in others formally or informally;
  • understand barriers, incentives and other issues related to implementation of pollution prevention programs in industry and government and have learning tools that help elicit that discussion;
  • be able to communicate pollution prevention and cleaner production concepts to a wide variety of people in a variety of settings; and
  • be familiar with materials available to help them prepare and present a participatory pollution prevention course and know how to access additional resources.

The draft was finalized December 2000, and the complete course module will soon be available at www.epa.gov/oia.

This article originally appeared in the March 2001 issue of Environmental Protection, Vol. 12, No. 3, p. 36.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2001 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

Jim DiPeso is communications director at the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, Seattle.