Environmental education can be a complex topic, particularly for individuals facing learning difficulties, language barriers, and socio-economic challenges. However, serious games have emerged as effective tools to engage and educate these groups. By incorporating elements of edutainment, non-verbal learning outcomes, and entertaining micro-lessons, serious games help to maintain people’s interest in environmental topics. The aim of these games is to create an inclusive environment that facilitates learning on green topics, ensuring it is equitable and responsive to the needs of the wider community.
Eurostat data indicates that Europeans allocate a significant portion of their available income to food and restaurants (21.8%), furnishing (5.5%), and clothing (4.8%). Rather than focusing on abstract science, the CoCo (Conscious Consumption) project emphasizes the creation of game-based micro-exercises that address learners’ everyday activities. These exercises provide alternative approaches to common practices such as cloth swapping, urban gardening, re-use, and upcycling. By promoting these simple and creative actions, CoCo aims to enable cost-saving measures and contribute to the development of a more sustainable and circular Europe. The project’s objective is to promote social inclusion and outreach to people with fewer opportunities while remaining open to all citizens.
The CoCo partnership began with a comprehensive needs assessment that explored the requirements for teaching concepts related to conscious consumption. The assessment focused on two main target groups: adult educators working in formal and informal training settings, particularly in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, and adult citizens from these areas who are not yet involved in regular education. Additionally, the project partners engaged with stakeholders and conducted research on EU and national documents. The identified need groups that CoCo aims to address include the digitalization needs and the need for information on consumption patterns. Both sets of needs are connected to reducing barriers to accessing education and information, promoting critical thinking, active citizenship, and validating new skills.
A 2018 OECD study revealed that less than 40% of educators felt ready to use digital technologies in teaching. CoCo’s own assessment confirmed this lack of preparedness, particularly among facilitators working with migrants and low-income adults. To address this, CoCo employs a blended approach, combining a serious game with a facilitator’s guide to create meaningful digital lessons. The project also provides a knowledge vault as an additional source of inspiration. The focus on consumption in the game and learning tools is driven by the increased environmental pressure observed over the past decades. A behavioral study commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers found that although consumers generally expressed willingness to engage in green practices, their actual engagement was low. For instance, while a majority of consumers repair products (64%), a significant portion has no experience with renting/leasing or buying second-hand products (~90%). This lack of engagement can be attributed to consumers’ limited information, awareness, and experience. CoCo aims to address this gap by improving educators’ knowledge on the topic and raising awareness among adult learners about the financial, ecological, and quality benefits of sustainable consumption.
CoCo seeks to effect behavioral change among European citizens, promoting more conscious and green consumption patterns. This aligns with the European Commission’s consumer policy revision, which aims to strengthen consumers’ role in the green transition. CoCo’s game and learning tools integrate information on three highly consumed product groups, raising awareness of the negative implications of malpractices such as greenwashing and premature obsolescence. By teaching circular and resource-efficient consumption, CoCo contributes to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. The project provides transparent information, particularly to socio-economically disadvantaged learners, to facilitate easy access to ideas, tools, and practices and enable informed decision-making as active citizens. CoCo aspires to become part of the Education for Climate Coalition, aligning with its goals of green skills development, teacher training, promoting behavior change, linking education and science, and raising collective awareness. This commitment aligns not only with the Education Area 2025 but also with the European Green Deal and the European Climate Pact.
Engaging in conscious consumption advances learners’ competences in environmental, financial, and critical thinking skills. This supports the European Commission’s Skills Agenda and the recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning. The CoCo project aims to increase the digital capacity and readiness of adult education institutions and learners to transition towards digital education on green topics. It seeks to enhance digital skills and expertise in using gamification for both teachers and learners by creating innovative digital education content and improving the competences of adult educators, providers, and learners. The project incorporates knowledge vaults, which collect digital tools, methods, and exercises for creative teaching approaches. The facilitators’ guide also assists in embedding the game into a learning context. Co-creation and peer-review processes during the project cycle enhance the role of the game, ensuring its suitability for educators and its responsiveness to the needs of socio-economically disadvantaged communities across Europe.