Better Alternatives

Middle School and High School Teacher

The students, with a partner, will research the negative environmental impact of every day products and identify safer alternatives.

Grade Level: 11 - 12th

Subject: Environmental, Science

Length of Time: 2-3 Class Periods

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Common Core Alignment

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.12.RST.7 -

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.12.RST.9 -

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.12.RST.8 -

- (See note; not applicable as a separate requirement)

Objectives & Outcomes

Using the Internet and other resources, the students will be able to research a product known for its negative environmental impact, reasons for the designation, and identify realistic alternatives.  The students will also list advantages/disadvantages, costs, and other variables related to the use of the products.

Materials Needed

One product that is recognized as harmful to the environment for every two students, access to the Internet, list of questions to explore

Prepare ahead of time:  Give a different product to each pair of students: detergent, disposable batteries, aerosol air freshener, Styrofoam, plastic cutlery, paper cups, plastic water bottle, disposable razor, plastic bag, incandescent light bulb, sunscreen, anti-bacterial hand soap, deodorant, petroleum jelly.  Also, create a list of questions students must respond to regarding the products such as:  Why is the product harmful?  What ingredients are in product?  And a wide variety of other questions.


Opening to Lesson

  • Teacher will display a sample product which is recognized as harmful to the environment (This product will not be given for the assignment.)
  • Ask students: How many of you have used this product?
  • Accept the responses from students
  • Ask students: How might this product be harmful to the environment?
  • Accept the responses from students

Body of Lesson


  • Encourage students to think about the product’s container while it is being made, following its use, and the ingredients in the product/container
  • Following discussion, tell students some of the actual background of the sample used
  • Ask students how many of the ingredients they are familiar with and which ones they may have never seen or heard of before today
  • Discuss the responses
  • Finally, ask students to think of alternatives for the sample product
  • Discuss the responses

Guided Practice

  • Pair students
  • Distribute one of the products to each pair of students
  • Distribute list of questions, suggestions, ideas for research
  • Guide students to the use of the Internet for research and information, recognizing the Internet may have false information as well, so they must carefully seek the facts
  • Direct students to research the harm the product causes the environment
  • Students are to seek the benefits to the consumer as well, for use later on finding alternatives to the product
  • Stress that students need to separate the facts and myths of the product
  • Once students research the harmful effects, students will now seek alternative products answering the question: What could be used instead of…to accomplish the same results?
  • Once completed with the research direct students to prepare a presentation for the class (This may be optional depending on time available)
  • Students will prepare a written report or Power Point presentation or similar account of the research
  • If class presentations are planned, assign time slots for each pair of students

Independent Practice

  • Give a list of each product used during the in-class assignment, for homework, students will identify products from their own homes. Using the Internet, students will compare the prices of each product and what alternatives may cost.  Report their findings in writing.


Using the homework findings discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using alternative products, one may be the extra cost involved, another may be the effectiveness of the alternatives, etc.

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Assessment & Evaluation

Assessment page used during optional presentations, assessment of final reports based on research.

Modification & Differentiation

Students work alone, in pairs, research only the negative impact w/o an alternative.  No class presentation, all written work turned in for evaluation.  Use less products, have students research same products.

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