- The Campus as a Learning Laboratory
When instilling students with a sense of environmental impact, having courses in ecology and sustainable energy is a must, but the campus should also be used as a learning laboratory. Use renewable technology on campus to demonstrate possible sources of alternative power. Making these systems an ordinary sight by demonstrating their use promotes sustainability, dispelling myths about their ineffectiveness. Green spaces on campus, especially those composed of native species, act as “living laboratories”. They serve as examples of local ecology, and are places where students of ecology can utilize their training.
Every university should make environmental studies, ecology, sustainable energy, or sustainable development part of its core curriculum. Every student should be required to demonstrate at least a general understanding of the local ecology and technology being promoted on campus.
- Demonstrate Sustainable Technology
When teaching sustainable practices, a university should practice as it preaches. For example, sustainable technologies on campus give students live examples of the very systems they are learning about. Use renewable energy, water conservation systems, advanced building designs or other sustainable technologies on campus, as not only do these reduce environmental impact, they also act as positive demonstrations to students. The presence of these technologies on campus shows the student body that these technologies work.
- Teach Environmental Literacy
Environmentalism, like any discipline, carries with it a jargon. Ensure your students can understand the vocabulary of ecology, earth science, and sustainable technology. It is imperative for students to be able to draw their own conclusions as to which environmental and energy options seem plausible and which do not. This enables students to make rational, informed decisions concerning the environment throughout their lives.
- Engage in Community Outreach
Universities often have some of the greatest impacts on the local economy and culture. As a significant member of the local community, a university should participate in community outreach programs targeted at sustainability, especially those developed and managed by students. Students, faculty, and staff can also participate in public policy dialog at the local, regional and state level.
- Take an Interdisciplinary Approach
Taking an interdisciplinary approach to sustainable development is not only a scientific concept; it is also philosophical, sociological, political, and economic. When teaching sustainability at your school, discuss how all these disciplines are interrelated. Treating these disciplines as discrete distorts their complexity concerning matters of sustainability.
- Strengthen Core Programs to Promote Sustainability
Environmental earth science departments are likely to already have courses on environmentalism and sustainable energy. However, economics departments should be encouraged to offer courses on the economic impact of environmental policy and sustainable technology. Political science departments should also be encouraged to offer courses on how such issues are politicized. Anthropology and sociology can also be brought to bear to outline the effects of environmental problems in populations, and demonstrate the cultural or social responses to environmental activism and environmental regulation. It is also necessary to examine environmental and sustainability issues from a philosophical standpoint rather than treating these issues through a social science alone as philosophy can often offer valuable perspective on many ethical issues. Sustainability also requires students to think systematically, a task which philosophy is readily able to train students for.