Being located in the Ruhrgebiet (former coal-mining region on the river Ruhr), Gelsenkirchen faces many challenges. The city's financial means are far from being abundant, and the high unemployment rate generates many poor families. Consequently, numerous long-established families move away. At the same time, Gelsenkirchen is home to a considerable number of migrants. Yet, the city confronts the challenges with stern determination. Fairly soon, Gelsenkirchen recognised the potential of education for sustainable development (ESD). As early as 1997, local politicians unanimously declared the city's own Agenda 21 and set up the so-called 'aGEnda 21 office'.
More than 200 early childhood care and education (ECCE) institutions located in Hamburg and southern Holstein display at their front doors a special sign: KITA21, marking them as part of an early childhood care and education network developed by S.O.F. Save Our Future – Umweltstiftung (Environmental Foundation). S.O.F. assists early childhood educators in implementing education for sustainable development (ESD) in the workplace. Successful ECCE institutions are awarded the title of "KITA21" and join the KITA21 network.
Education for sustainable development (ESD) enables vocational students to act responsibly at work. Next to profound technical know-how, the students acquire future-oriented economic knowledge and skills. ESD raises awareness of 'green' production processes, technologies and working conditions that are indispensible for a transformation towards more sustainable societies. Thus, sustainability is the common theme running through the educational provision of Uelzen's vocational schools (BBS) I. By implementing ESD, the schools aim to serve as a model for other schools in the region and beyond.