Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 371-378
doi: 10.4236/jep.2011.24041 Published Online June 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Education on Sustainable Development Based on
Local Agenda 21
Constantina Skanavis, Polytimi Zacharaki, Christos Giannoulis, Vasiliki Petreniti
Department of Environment, University of the Aegean, Greece.
Received January 15th, 2011; revised February 21st, 2011; accepted April 2nd, 2011.
The study is contextualized through evaluating the implementation of Local Agenda Action Plan (LAAP). The goal was
to address environmental challenges facing a city under the framework of sustainable development and planning. The
evaluation of this conceptual framework was tested at a selected municipality of Athens (Greece), that has used a LAAP.
The research was based on a structured questionnaire survey of a sample of 300 respondents selected from municipal
employees (100 persons) and citizens of the selected municipality (200 persons). Analysis and interpretation of data
through descriptive and factor analysis statistics establish that both municipality employees and citizens are primarily
concerned with issues of environmental management. They firmly believe that sustainability initiatives at municipality
might best be implemented through a collaborative approach at the local community level, involving local citizens
working in partnership with local government. Furthermore, the study established the importance of education, aware-
ness and training as a response to environmental issues currently facing the municipality. The awareness and training
activities should be developed and should involve the members of the community in the needed environmental manage-
ment processes. In view of the Decade Education for Sustainable Development (UNESCO 2 005-2015), this should en-
able the Council to create opportunities for income generation, while simultaneously promoting citizens environmental
responsible behaviors and improving service delivery by municipality employees.
Keywords: Environmental Policy, Local Agenda 21, Education, Sustainable Development, Greece, Evaluation
1. Introduction 21 had lofty ambitions. Many hoped that the adoption of
Agenda 21 would lead to new era of environmental sus-
tainability around the world, while at the same time
would reduce poverty. Although considerable gains have
been made in some areas of sustainable development,
many of the world’s most pressing development and en-
vironmental problems continue to remain unaddressed
almost 20 years after the initiation idea of Agenda 21.
Moreover, the multilateral trading system is showing
very few signs of improving market access conditions for
agricultural products from developing countries. These
observations have led to the conclusion that Agenda 21
has been largely unsuccessful and that some alternative
development trajectory must be found. Agenda 21 estab-
lished the UN Commission on Sustainable Development,
which was given the task of overseeing its implementa-
tion. In 2002, the UN held the World Summit on Sus-
tainable Development (dubbed “Rio +10”) in Johannes-
burg, South Africa, to review the implementation of
Agenda 21 and to forge a new implementation strategy
Sustainable development presupposes public participa-
tion in local government. The context for this role has
come from the argument of academics and others that it
is only public participation at local scale that sustainabil-
ity can be enacted and maintained. International support
for this position has come from principally following the
United Nations Conference on Environment and Devel-
opment in Rio de Janeiro in 1992; through Chapter 28 of
Agenda 21. The outcome of this conference was the de-
velopment of a lengthy action plan that pertains to a wide
variety of problems regarding the environment, devel-
opment and social equity [1]. In Chapter 28 of Agenda
21, the local authorities of each country are called to
proceed to consulting procedures with local populations
in order to achieve their consent to Local Agenda 21
(LA21) [2]. The LA21 is focused on the role of local
government in the application of sustainable develop-
ment programs in each country [3].
Needless to say, the governments that drafted Agenda
Education on Sustainable Development Based on Local Agenda 21
[4]. This summit underlined the importance of local gov-
ernments as the main component of sustainable devel-
opment [5], and established the requirements for its
achievement starting from the need to educate citizens on
the issue. In this framework, the Declaration of the Dec-
ade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-
2015 was stated.
According to the International Council for Local En-
vironmental Initiatives (ICLEI), LA21 procedures are
applied, or will soon be, in 6400 European Local Gov-
ernment Organizations (LGO). The first countries in
Europe to proceed with Local Agenda 21 were Ireland
and Sweden with 288 municipalities totally. Denmark,
with two-thirds of its municipalities, and the United
Kingdom, with 90% of its municipalities implementing
Local Agenda 21 are also in the frontline of this effort to
ensure sustainable development at the local level. Italy
follows with a percentage of 30%, while the performance
of Cataluña is remarkable. In Australia, a national strat-
egy for Local Agenda 21 has been adopted with more
than 60 municipalities having applied it. In other coun-
tries, the decision to apply Local Agenda 21 has intro-
duced radical changes to the structure of their local gov-
ernments, such as the creation of interdisciplinary plan-
ning units or the creation of state administration units in
neighborhoods and villages. In Peru, the Cajamarca prov-
ince started the application of Local Agenda 21 by the
decentralization of its administration in 76 urban and
rural administrative units, so as to encourage local par-
ticipation and to ensure transparent procedures in the
establishment of Local Agenda 21 [6].
ICLEI studies show that although many municipalities
have made significant progress, the majority have not
worked on LA21 and its efficient application [7,8]. Al-
though the reasons for this are diverse, they are funda-
mentally explained by the difficulties, costs and risks
perceived by local governments [9]. Garcia-Sanchez &
Prado-Lorenzo’s [10] reveal that the social participation
plan, which is a vital element in the success of the mu-
nicipality’s action, is only implemented in 62% of the
cities and towns participating in LA21 in the European
Union (EU). Similarly, Pini and Mckenzie’s [11] study
show limited community involvement in environmental
management in rural local government areas in Australia.
Regions in South Europe have made little progress re-
garding the application of LA21 [12]. Greece is a repre-
sentative example of such pattern. According to ICLEI
study, 39 cases out of 1031 LGO have implemented
LA21 procedure. Three municipalities though, have placed
the state of art in LA21 procedures implementation. Of
these, two are in the extended Athens area (Maroussi and
Chalandri), and the third is in the island of Crete (mu-
nicipality of Heraclion).
Studies addressing LA21 evolution describe its appli-
cation in various countries, such as Portugal [13,14], Ja-
pan [15], Spain [16], Germany [17], Italy [18], Turkey
[19], Dominican Republic, Grenada and Santa Lucia [20],
Basque region [21], Australia [22,23] and various other
cities [24-32] These studies analyze data, derived from
procedures and structural changes monitoring, both at lo-
cal and national levels, in order to evaluate the evolution
of LA21 application, its outcome and drawbacks experi-
Although most of these studies emphasize the role that
active citizens could play in the efficient application of
LA21, most research is focusing only on the action taken
by LGO. In practice the role of citizens has not been re-
searched adequately. Consequently we have little infor-
mation on citizens’ knowledge and skills to effectively
respond to LA21. Same goes for LGO motivation to
educate citizens. Civic participation concerns are some-
how addressed by Bullard [33] and Lindström and
Johnsson [34]. On the other hand it has been demon-
strated that citizens’ environmental education enhances
environmental knowledge and skills that could build their
active participation in decision-making processes and
strengthen their support of LA21 [35]. This paper at-
tempts to address the above mentioned concerns in one
Greek municipality where LA21 implementation has
received considerable attention. The aim of this research
is the assessment of citizens and employees’ views re-
garding local government ability and effectiveness to
implement LA21 procedures in order to address envi-
ronmental problems.
2. Method and Data Collection
A structured questionnaire was designed in consideration
of collecting data from a random sample of local popula-
tion. The sample consisted of 300 persons, or 3% of the
total population that covers the region of the study (the
municipality of Maroussi). A hundred of the participants
work in the municipality of Maroussi (Figure 1), while
the remaining 200 are residents in the same municipality.
The first part of the questionnaire included some
demographic questions (e.g., sex, age, marital status, place
of residence, main degree and profession for citizens,
while municipality employees were asked to answer ad-
ditional questions regarding years of service and mu-
nicipality department where they work).
In particular, from the 200 local citizens who partici-
pated in the research, 49.5% were men, while 50.5% were
women. As far as the allocation of the questioned per-
sons by age group is concerned: 21% of the participants
were less than 30 years old, 25% were between 31 and
40 years old, while 54% were over 41 years old. Regard-
ng the marital status 34% were single, 55% were i
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Education on Sustainable Development Based on Local Agenda 21
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Figure 1. Municipality of Maroussi, Athens, Greece (The city is marked with red sign).
married and 10% were divorced. Regarding the educa-
tional level 1% had earned a Ph.D., 2% had master’s de-
grees, 46% graduated from a higher or technological
educational institute, 38% graduated from high school,
educational institute or a technical school, and 14% gra-
duated from secondary or primary school.
Furthermore, from a total of 100 municipal employees
who took part in the research, 51% were men, while 49%
were women. Regarding the allocation of the questioned
persons by age groups, 16% of the questioned persons
were under 30 years old, 46.5% were between 31 and 40
years old, and 37% were over 41. The marital statuses of
the participants were as follows: 36% were single, 52%
were married and 12% were divorced. Regarding educa-
tional level, 1% had Ph.D. degrees, 1% had earned mas-
ter’s degrees, 66% had graduated from a higher or tech-
nological educational institute, 28% graduated from high
school, an educational institute or a technical school, and
3% had graduated from secondary or primary school.
The second part of the questionnaire was slightly dif-
ferent for citizens in relation to the one for employees.
The one for citizens consisted of 50 statements referring
to the evaluation of LA21 implementation at their mu-
nicipality. The questioned persons were asked to identify
the degree of their agreement or disagreement, across a 5
point Likert scale, ranging from strongly agree (5 on the
scale) to strongly disagree (1 on the scale). For municipal
employees, the second part consisted of 56 statements
referring to the evaluation of LA21 implementation at
their municipality.
Factorial analysis was applied to the statements in or-
der to comment on the cluster pattern of citizen’s and
employees views on LA21 implementation effectiveness.
The interpretation of the influential factors, based on
demographic data, had elicited noticeable conclusions
regarding them. In particular, a principal components
analysis (PCA method) was applied to the 50 statements
from the citizens and to the 56 statements from municipal
employees with orthogonal rotation (varimax). The Kai-
ser-Meyer-Olkin measure verified the sampling adequacy
for the analysis, with KMO = 0.82 (a very good value,
according to Tabarick & Fidell [37]) for local citizens’
items and KMO = 0.67 (a middling value, according to
Tabarick & Fidell [37]) for municipal employees. Bar-
lett’s test of sphericity, with χ2 (1225) = 4465.58, p <
0.001 for local citizens’ items statements and with χ2
(1540) = 3336.058, p < 0.001, for municipal employees’
items statements, indicated that correlations between
items statements were sufficiently large for PCA. An ini-
tial analysis was run to obtain Eigenvalues for each com-
ponent per each data set. Kaiser’s criterion for keeping
factors with Eigenvalues above 1, as well as a scree plot,
were slightly ambiguous and showed inflections that
would justify retaining both Components 5 and 6. There-
fore, we proceeded to the selection of the number of fac-
tors based on the additional criteria mentioned below:
1) percentage of total variability of the facts that are
interpreted by the factors;
2) number of factors to which the addition of one more
factor will not lead to an significant increase of the
variability that is interpreted by the factors; and
3) possibility of interpretation of the obtained factors.
After confirming the validity and reliability of factor
analysis of both datasets, we identified, according to the
above criteria, four factors in both cases (citizens and
municipal employees):
1) FACTOR A: Views of the participants on their active
participation in environmental issues.
2) FACTOR B: Views of the participants on environ-
mental problems that appear to be prevalent currently.
3) FACTOR C: Environmental awareness of the par-
4) FACTOR D: Application of LA21 as well as the in-
formation of the participants on environmental issues
of their region.
The model of these four factors for the citizens, on the
one hand, explains 42.69% of total variance in the data,
while on the other hand, for the municipal employees,
Education on Sustainable Development Based on Local Agenda 21
reveals 39.92% of total variance in the data. The further
addition of more factors in the model does not increase
the total variability of the data that is interpreted by the
factors. Finally, comparisons of the factor scores were
made in order to identify important differences in these
among the varying categories of the demographic data
(e.g., sex, age, marital status, etc.). In other words, we
explored whether the demographics seem to influence the
attitudes of both citizens and employees on different is-
sues. The significance level in all tests is defined to be
equal to 95% (p < 0.05). In cases where the variable has
two levels (i.e., sex: male-female), the independent sam-
ple t-test was chosen for the comparison of the mean
value of the factor scores. In all other cases where the
variable has more than 2 levels (i.e. age, education and
marital status), the analysis of variance was chosen for
the comparison of the mean value of factor scores.
3. Results
3.1. Local Citizens
According to the factor analysis comparison of means
with the demographic characteristics (Table 1), we found
that the views of the citizens concerning their active par-
ticipation in environmental issues and the views of the
citizens on environmental issues are statistically different,
according to their gender (Factors Α, p-value = 0.002 and
Factor Β, p-value = 0.032). On the contrary, it was
equally supported by both sexes both a positive view
regarding the outcome of the application of LA21 and
high quality of the relevant information they had re-
ceived. Thus, gender influences only two of the four re-
search factors. Age seems to influence only the environ-
mental consciousness of the citizens (Factor C, p-value =
0.037), while marital status does not appear to influence
any of the above mentioned four factors. Finally, educa-
tional level constitutes an important point of differentia-
tion in the answers of the citizens, as it influences three
out of four factors: the views of the citizens concerning
their active participation in environmental issues, their
environmental consciousness and their information on the
environment (Factor Α, p-value = 0.002, Factor C, p-value
= 0.004, Factor D, p-value = 0.004).
3.2. Municipal Employees
According to the factor analysis comparison of means
with the demographic characteristics (Table 2), gender
influences only the fourth factor, that is, the views of the
municipal employees on the weaknesses of the environ-
mental measures already taken (Factor D, p-value =
0.043). On the contrary, demographic data such as age,
marital status and years of service do not appear to in-
fluence the positive attitude of the municipal employees
on research issues, as well as their answers, as all factors
remain uninfluenced. Finally, their educational level ap-
pears to influence significantly the views of the munici-
pal employees on the existing situation (third factor),
(p-value = 0.029).
The comparative analysis, of the answers given by the
citizens of the Municipality of Maroussi and the em-
ployees of the municipality, is considered substantial
because views between citizens and employees are simi-
lar on the issue of the potential effectiveness of LA21
implementation (Table 3) and on the fact that it could
improve the municipality-citizens relationship. There is a
slight convergence on the importance of their municipal-
ity waste management program. The abundance of recy-
cle bins in different parts of municipality is considered to
be an important factor to the protection of the environ-
ment to both groups. While citizens have the intention to
report someone that pollutes the environment (score
4.02), this is not carried on as an action (score 3.70). The
employees of the municipality appear slightly more sen-
sitive on the environmental issues, but with a small dif-
ference in the score (4.43 versus 4.16).
4. Discussion
Based on the descriptive analysis of the data collected, a
Table 1. Independence sample t-test (gender) and analysis of variance (age, marital status, education) of factors on citizens’
Factors Gender
Marital Status
A Views of the participants on their active participation in
environmental issues 0.002* 0.646 0.993 0.002
B Views of the participants on environmental problems
that appear nowadays 0.032* 0.357 0.494 0.616
C Environmental awareness of the participants 0.536 0.037* 0.601 0.004*
D Application of LA21, as well as the information of the
participants on environmental issues of their region 0.996 0.704 0.830 0.004*
* p < 0.05
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Education on Sustainable Development Based on Local Agenda 21375
Table 2. Independence sample t-test (gender) and analysis of variance (age, marital status, education) of factors on municipal
employees’ demographics.
Factors Gender
Marital Status
A Views of the participants on their active participation
in environmental issues 0.174 0.507 0.641 0.096
B Views of the participants on environmental problems
that appear nowadays 0.287 0.779 0.935 0.552
C Environmental awareness of the participants 0.513 0.269 0.199 0.029*
D Application of LA21, as well as the information of the
participants on environmental issues of their region 0.043* 0.678 0.281 0.579
*p < 0.05.
Table 3. Comparative descriptive statistics for local citizens and municipal employees (basic differences).
Nr. Statements Min Max MeanMean MaxMinStatements Nr.
The application of Local Agenda
21 in the municipality had positive
effects for me
1 5
3.85 3.94 5 3
The application of Local
Agenda 21 had positive
results for the municipality
The implementation of Local
Agenda 21 improved my relation-
ship between you and municipality
1 5
3.69 3.86 5 2
The implementation of Local
Agenda 21 improved the
relationship between and
municipality representatives
and citizens.
A program campaign of waste
reduction, as well as encourage-
ment of waste recycling could
contribute significantly to the pro-
tection of the environment
1 5
4.57 4.61 5 3
A program campaign of
waste reduction, as well as
encouragement of waste
recycling could contribute
significantly to the protec-
tion of the environment
8 Recycling casks should be at sev-
eral points of the municipality region 2 5
4.59 4.49 5 2
Recycling casks should be
at several points of the
municipality region
I intend to denounce anyone who
pollutes the environment signifi-
1 5
4.02 3.7 5 2
We have many denounce-
ments at the municipality
records raised from local
citizens regarding fellow
local citizens who pollute
the environment
I believe that the most important
current social matter is the deterio-
ration of our environment
1 5
4.16 4.43 5 3
I believe that the environ-
mental crisis is the most
important social issue today
Min: The minimum score (minimum) given by the respondents for each proposal. Max: The maximum score (maximum) given by the respondents for each
proposal. Mean: The average, so as to examine the central position of the responses.
more general profile could be developed about the per-
sons who appear to be more sensitive to environmental
issues and have the intention to become more involved
by actively participating in their municipality. These
persons are mainly women, married, over 41 years old,
and graduates of a university or a technological institute.
Women’s stronger environmental beliefs and actions
involvement has been reported in literature [37-40].
Other studies’ findings have not revealed the same [41].
Yet the need to actively and dynamically involve women
in sustainable development actions should not be over-
looked in comparison to male population [42]. Women
have specific environmental interests and principles that
are based on their social and biological roles. The last
global Summit for sustainable development [43] recog-
nized and verified officially this need to recognize
women as one of the nine main citizen groups whose
participation is necessary for the effective application of
the agenda for sustainable development. At all UN con-
ferences thereafter, based on the ten-year anniversary of
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Education on Sustainable Development Based on Local Agenda 21
the Education for Sustainable Development, gender
equality, with special reference to women and girls, has
been a common concern, and there has also been a con-
sensus that their participation in education is critical for
enabling development and sustainability in local gov-
In particular, LA21 evaluation, both from local citi-
zens as well as from municipal employees, is considered
significant for the increase of the environmental con-
sciousness of the citizens, the improvement of the man-
agement of environmental problems, the improvement of
municipality-citizen relations, the recognition and incor-
poration of the LA21 principles to routines of the mu-
nicipality, and the increase of the citizens’ participation
to everyday issues and their desire to be involved in their
resolution. The environmentally friendly profile, revealed
by the study’s results, can only be sustained, if funding
from the national government supports the necessary
enhancement actions. An effective local government
must base its operation on a clear application of the
LA21 procedures. The LGO have to encourage citizens’
participation in public debates on the environmental
problems of the municipality. The rule of thumb would
be to have municipality employees truly support the
LA21 procedures. Sustainable development educational
programs designed to the specific needs of the partici-
pants could bring us close to the mentioned challenging
goals. Ninety percent of participants express willingness
to participate in the municipality procedures but need
support in actualizing it. This way LΑ21 would not be
limited to recycling actions! LA21 refers to behavior
change and successful partnership between local gov-
ernment and citizens. Intensions are great but actions are
by far better. LA21 effective implementation is linked to
environmental education for all.
5. Conclusion
From concept to local practice, ongoing debates increas-
ingly underline the need to measure education for sus-
tainable development capacity based on indicators or
evaluation criteria. One of the most common applications
consists in comparing municipalities, notably to support
local decision-making processes. However, it seems that
the actual role of citizens has not been researched ade-
quately, especially in view of citizens’ public participa-
tion beliefs and priorities. In this article, we try to ad-
dress this research gab based on structured questionnaire
survey of a sample of municipal employees and local
citizens at a selected municipality of Athens (Greece)
that has used a LAAP. Although we recognize the sub-
jective nature of our approach, we believe that it can al-
low a comprehensive mapping of citizens’ environmental
profile. The results of our study indicated that the people
who show greater intention to participate in environ-
mental decision making processes are highly educated
married women in the middle of their forties. In addition,
our analysis demonstrates that current practices related to
Local Agenda 21 implementation cannot meet standard
objectives without sustained funding of lifelong envi-
ronmental education programs. Considering the contra-
diction between the need to obtain indicators that allow
comparison between jurisdictions and the desire to reflect
local concerns, it is probable that consensus on certain
principles as a prerequisite to these objectives being met.
Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged that this field
will surely benefit from ongoing and future research.
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