Many teachers, therapists, and increasingly, sustainability professionals, will tell you that you can show people stats, figures, compelling pictures, and even videos, but perhaps the way many people learn best is through play.

GBO Hawai’i, a new sustainability board game, teaches sustainability in a very entertaining way. In the game, you fend off the oil industry’s lobbyists, and navigate public policy that sometimes supports sustainable economic development and sometimes works against it. There’s even bureaucracy in the game. To build a wind farm, for instance, you need to apply for a permit, then wait a turn, and depending on your roll next turn, it may or may not get approved. Then when the oil-industry backed candidate wins the governor’s campaign, everyone gets hosed. Sometimes those permit applications get revoked.

For educators, there are even lesson planning materials, free for download, on GBO Hawai’i‘s website. With three levels of the game (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), teachers can have weeks worth of lessons with their students, engaging them to try new strategies and slowly becoming more and more fluent in the language of sustainability.

Check out this video about the game.

GBO Hawai’i’s Facebook fan page has a discussion forum on their wall, so you can see what others are saying about the game. My favorite part? The directions on how to play are in video form. No need to even read the paper instructions in the game itself! You can just use them for reference.


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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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