Faculty Sustainability Learning Communities

During the 2011–2012 and 2013–2014 academic years, faculty met monthly to work on integrating sustainability into their teaching. As a result of this work, faculty have developed new sustainability focused lessons, courses, and programs. Below are some resources from these learning communities.

Sustainability in three parts

  1. The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development in 1987 as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
  2. More recently the sustainable business community has endeavored to replace business' traditional focus on profit with an alternative logic balancing three E's: Environment, Equity and Economy.
  3. Informing all these ideas about sustainable practice is an overarching commitment to equilibrium. Sustainable systems of any sort balance inputs with outputs, and achieve a reproducible condition in a durable, balanced cycle.

Characteristics of Quality Sustainability Education

  • Builds awareness of implications beyond the self
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Empowering not overwhelming
  • Action oriented Focuses on long term not short term
  • Emphasizes systemic thought
  • Considers inter-generational equality
  • Provides tools for thoughtful living

STARS Academic Courses

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a self-reporting tool to measure the sustainability of Westminster College. As part of this reporting tool, there is a credit designated to academic courses and how many sustainable courses the college offers. The courses can either be designated as "sustainability courses" or "courses that include sustainability."

Westminster College STARS report

Sustainability Courses

As defined by STARS:

Sustainability courses are courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability and/or on understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenge (e.g. the course contributes toward achieving principles outlined in the Earth Charter).

  • Foundational courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability as an integrated concept having social, economic, and environmental dimensions. Obvious examples include Introduction to Sustainability, Sustainable Development, and Sustainability Science, however courses may also count if their course descriptions indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability.
  • Courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on the application of sustainability within a field. As sustainability is an interdisciplinary topic, such courses generally incorporate insights from multiple disciplines. Obvious examples include Sustainable Agriculture, Architecture for Sustainability, and Sustainable Business, however courses may also count if their course descriptions indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability within a field.
  • Courses in which the primary focus is on providing skills and/or knowledge directly connected to understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenges. A course might provide knowledge and understanding of the problem or tools for solving it, for example Climate Change Science, Renewable Energy Policy, Environmental Justice, or Green Chemistry. Such courses do not necessarily cover "sustainability" as a concept, but should address more than one of the three dimensions of sustainability (i.e. social wellbeing, economic prosperity, and environmental health).

While a foundational course such as chemistry or sociology might provide knowledge that is useful to practitioners of sustainability, it would not be considered a sustainability course. Likewise, although specific tools or practices such as GIS (Geographical Information Systems) or engineering can be applied towards sustainability, such courses would not count as sustainability courses unless their primary and explicit focus is on sustainable applications. If there is a sustainability unit, module or activity within one of these courses, but it is not the main focus, the course may be counted as a course that includes sustainability.

Sustainability course list

Courses that include sustainability

As defined by STARS:

A course that includes sustainability is primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability, but incorporates a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, includes one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrates sustainability issues throughout the course.

While a foundational course such as chemistry or sociology might provide knowledge that is useful to practitioners of sustainability, it would not be considered to be inclusive of sustainability unless the concept of sustainability or a sustainability challenge is specifically integrated into the course. Likewise, although specific tools or practices such as GIS (Geographical Information Systems) or engineering can be applied towards sustainability, such courses would not count unless they incorporated a unit on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, included a sustainability-focused activity, or incorporated sustainability issues throughout the course.

Courses that include sustainability