Ethical consumption lesson idea

This is an ESL lesson idea for teachers looking for some fresh topics for their classroom. It covers vocabulary and speaking mostly but also has an attached reading topic as well. It is adaptable for most levels but recommended for classes of intermediate and higher. For an overview on the lesson idea I’ve made a video lesson that reviews the themes and vocabulary, check it out.

Introducing the topic

Here are two quotes that can get the ball rolling for the theme of the lesson:

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”  —Mahatma Gandhi

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.” —Emma Watson

Choose one or both and get feedback from your students.

Question: Is ethical consumption just something for rich people or do we all have a roll to play? explain

Brainstorm the topics below with your students or put them up on the projector with some letters missing(depending on level)

Topics you can cover:

  • Sustainable living
  • Eco-friendliness
  • Bio-production
  • All-natural products
  • Minimalism vs Consumerism

What were the last three items that you purchased?

Write them down and tell your partner. Were any of them related to ethical consumption?(where was it made, who produced it, how much did it cost etc)

Vocabulary tasks

cut down on, break down(biodegradable), take away, to go, throw away, disposable, reusable, single-use, to exploit, a fair wage, animal cruelty, sweat shop, minimalism, consumerism, business transparency, working conditions, bargain prices

The words can be introduced in a spidergram, or brainstormed with the class. Alternatively you can project definitions on the board and ask them to match the words to the definitions. Have some example sentences handy for some of these depending on the level. I’ve chosen the most relevant and common to the topic I could think of, use what you like.


You can ask students to rank certain items according to:

  1. Environmental impact
  2. Company ethics
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Product sustainability

Which of these do you care about the most and which would convince you to change your habits?

Products/items to rank: fast fashion clothes/plastic plates,utensils, cups/ fast food/ cheaply made toys/  using plastic bags/ Starbucks/ Nike/ Electronic devices/ diesel car/ Uber/  paper books/ Beef/ Chicken/ Fish/ food buffet/ luxury vacation/ Furniture/ 

Brainstorm how students could change their habits: shopping less, using a reusable cup, refusing to buy from a certain company, buy eco-friendly products.

What is difficult about adapting new spending/shopping habits?

Debate speaking task

Here are two posts with the language students need for a debate:

Video: Functional language: Expressing viewpoints and justifying/supporting your opinion.

Lesson idea: Alternatively you can take ideas from this lesson idea

Use a Padlet wallpaper and give students the link to access it so they can post opinions on the topic. Alternatively, you can project it on the board with statements on ethical consumption you have pre-selected like this one:

Made with Padlet

You can this one if you’d like 🙂

Reading task

Ethical consumption from Keynote Upper-Intermediate course book

I’ve used Keynote’s Upper-Intermediate reading topic in my lessons and it was my inspiration for this lesson idea, here is the scan of that section that you can use for ideas:





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