Comedy in the Classroom

innovative teaching in higher education, using the performing arts to engage and inspire students

Swipe Right for Sustainability

It seems that everyone wants more sustainable development these days, so surely two lonely hearts who make a match on a dating website should have a rosy future together?

It isn’t easy being green. Daisy ‘de-growth’ Beansprout believes we should prioritise sustainable wellbeing, rather than economic growth, and she’s a keen gardener, growing food in her eco-village and volunteering for various community initiatives.  Gareth ‘green growth’ Juggernaut is a green entrepreneur, he wants to make money and save the planet at the same time, a win-win situation where the market drives green progress. These two are both looking for someone to save the planet with. Is this their lucky day?

They post their profiles on ‘greender’, a dating site for environmentalists, flick through some hopefuls, swipe right, and make a match.  Follow Daisy and Gareth on their first date – they’re both passionate about sustainable living and seem to have so much in common…. what could possibly go wrong?


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As Gareth arrives in his Ferrari hybrid, and Daisy is a bit late because her bike got a puncture, the performance follows them on their first date. They are excited to find out how much they have in common, and hopeful about a romantic future together. But as they get to know each other a little better, soon the conversation takes a more strained turn, with awkward silences and tense stand-offs. Do they still have a chance of romance?

Here are two versions you can watch a full-length (40m) version performed for the students by Gill Seyfang and Tom Hargreaves, and also a 20m version for UEA’s Learning and Teaching Day 2016, performed by Gill and Helen Pallett.



This is a new piece for spring 2016, to explain two very different approaches to sustainable development. We have used it in a first year Undergraduate module in Environmental Sciences, and plan to also use it to teach Masters level Postgraduates as well.

Students follow up with a workshop exercise where they re-write Daisy and Gareth’s ‘greender’ profiles, to make sure they never end up on such a disastrous date again. This focuses on bringing out the differences between these two competing characters/approaches, their ideologies, preferred solutions and policy recommendations, as well as their similarities.
P1140702Feedback has been hugely positive – not only are these fun, enjoyable sessions and something completely different, but students report much greater understanding when they see ideas personified and acted out. An unexpected benefit has been that our students say how much they enjoy seeing us lecturers as more human, approachable and accessible, after one of these sessions, saying they feel more confident to talk to us once they’ve seen us jump off the academic pedestal!P1140810

In a follow-up survey, 89% of first year students said the class was more memorable than a normal lecture/seminar; 78% said it was more effective at communicating complex ideas, and 87% found the class more interesting and engaging than a normal lecture. This class really made an impact: 76% discussed it afterwards with their classmates, and 44% even told friends and family outside UEA about it – one student reported how they gave their parents a lesson in sustainability by explaining what they’d seen! If a true measure of learning is whether someone can explain the subject to someone else, I think we succeeded pretty well.