10 sustainable development project ideas to engage students

Summary: You are a teacher, student group or Green Office and are looking for ways to engage students on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ? Get inspired by the sustainable development project ideas in this post. Engaging students on the SDGs is a key practice of a sustainable university.


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations are the new global agenda to enable all humans to live a safe, peaceful and prosperous life within planetary boundaries. But how can you engage students on the SDGs?

1. SDG poster campaign

Run workshops in which students develop posters on the SDGs – one poster per SDG. The posters could portrait facts, explain what each SDG is or how they are relevant for students and staff. Then run a campaign where the posters are hung up in hallways, classrooms or entrance halls. Once the posters are up, run a competition in which students can win a cool prize, if they manage to take a photo of themselves in front of all the 17 posters and share with you why they find the SDGs important.

2. Assessment

Invite students to conduct an inventory on what your university is already doing on the 17 SDG themes in education, research and operations. You can share the results via social media, posters, infographics or an interactive website.

3. Theme months

Ask students and staff which SDG they find most important. From the results, pick the highest ranked goals. Then organise an engagement programme over one semester, including talks, video screenings, excursions, panel discussion or workshops.

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4. Alumni portraits

Showcase 17 alumni from your university that are working on different SDGs. Those can be alumni who published a research study on poverty reduction, set-up a renewable energy company or work for an NGO on clean water. This sustainable development project idea can inspire more students to follow similar career paths.

5. SDG art exhibition

Engage students to produce art, such as photographs, paintings or sculptures, that symbolise the 17 SDGs. You can collaborate with local artists on this. Then, you can host an exhibition to showcase the artwork and allow the audience to learn about the SDGs.

UniTo Green Office - Earth exhibition

6. Lecture series

Organise a lecture series to invite speakers to present on 4-6 Sustainable Development Goals. The speakers could come from business, civil society and local government. The lecture series could run over one semester. You could award students, who attend a critical numbers of lectures, course credits or a certificate. If you don’t have enough speakers to organise a lecture series, you could also screen a sustainability documentary instead.

7. SDG day

Find out which student groups are active to the SDGs. Then invite these student groups to organise a whole day programme with different activities on the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, you could have workshops on recycling or sustainable food.

Green Office TU Delft - Day of sustainability at TU Delft

8. Quiz night

Start by preparing a cool quiz with different questions on issues related to the SDGs. Then invite students and staff to join a quiz night. Teams compete against each other and the team that answers the most questions gets an award.

UniTo Green Office - Leadership Training for ESD

9. Excursions

For the last sustainable development project idea, you need to find out what the local government, civil society organisations and companies in your region are doing on the SDGs. Organise a study visit with a group of students to learn from these organisations about the practical actions they are taking to help realise the SDGs.

Green Office Groningen - Lunchwalk in the park

10. Sustainable living campaign

The Sustainable Development Goals can often be abstract for students. Break down these big goals through a sustainable living campaign. For example, you could find role models that are already taking action to reduce their own environmental and social footprints. Portray these role models as positive examples that students can follow to realise the SDGs in their daily lives.

Erasmus Sustainability Hub - SDG campaign
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