Is your major sustainable enough? Whether you’re pursuing a sustainability degree and want to further your knowledge, or are interested in supplementing your major in another area with sustainability education, plenty of independent learning resources are available.
A wide range of credit and noncredit courses—including university- and organization-sponsored courses offered both online and offline— can enable students to add sustainability content to any major. Documentaries, YouTube videos, books and volunteer work with NGOs are also very helpful for students interested in learning about sustainability. Using the resources below, you can supplement your major with sustainability courses and other learning opportunities.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are one of the most popular and fastest-growing types of online courses, and a number of them are focused on sustainability. These courses provide a syllabus and course materials, just like regular university courses, as well as forums in which participants can network. Although most MOOCs do not offer college course credit at this time, they do offer learning opportunities from world-class universities absolutely free, or for a relatively small fee when compared with the cost of a traditional college course. Explore these MOOCs for introductory or in-depth study in sustainability:
- Sustainability, Society, and You provides an introduction to sustainability and explains how individuals can have an impact on the future.
- Introduction to Sustainability offers an introduction to the academic approach of sustainability. This course focuses on sustainability theory and practice, including resources, ecosystems, economics and ethics.
- Energy, the Environment, and Our Future covers human energy use in the past, present and future.
- Intro to Sustainable Energy explains the basics of energy and its impact on the climate. You’ll explore strategies for sustainable energy, and look at how we can meet our energy obligations.
- Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals teaches students how they can practice sustainable development strategies in business.
- The Age of Sustainable Development offers an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of sustainability. In this course, you’ll learn about the major challenges and pathways to sustainable development.
- Global Sustainable Energy: Past, Present, and Future examines energy consumption patterns, and a discuses new energy sources that may meet future international energy needs.
- International Health Systems: Incorporating Sustainability Strategies allows students to see sustainability at work in health care, as well as learn how sustainability strategies can improve health systems.
Independent Learning Opportunities in Sustainability
- Conferences are a great way to learn more about sustainability. You’ll be able to participate in workshops, network and meet others working in sustainability. According to TriplePundit, sustainability conferences have dramatically increased in number as more industries see the financial benefits to sustainability. The annual Opportunity Green conference in Los Angeles is one such opportunity, and students who volunteer at this event get free admission.
- Workshops: Most people don’t realize that many water and energy companies offer workshops related to conservation, native landscape design, solar installation and other related topics free of charge. Check with your local utility providers to see what they offer; usually, all you need to do is sign up and show up. For example, Southern California Edison offers a range of workshops geared toward helping businesses make better energy decisions. For the more advanced student, utility-related associations also provide workshops. For instance, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association in Greenfield, Massachusetts has offered a workshop on “Zero Net Energy Homes: The Future of Residential Buildings.”
- Libraries and Book Lists: Books are great sources of information, and many universities and public libraries are starting collections on sustainability. Be sure to check your local library for books, documentaries and advanced student studies. For example, Boston University’s Sustainability Collection contains both books and multimedia on sustainability topics.
- Documentaries and Other Videos: There are a number of good documentaries on the market related to sustainability and resilience. Films for Action maintains an extensive list of documentaries and other films that offer insight into sustainable themes. Essential sustainability documentaries include:
- Dirt: The Movie
- An Inconvenient Truth
- Food, Inc.
- Volunteer Work and Internships: For authentic, hands-on experience, nothing beats working with a sustainability-related NGO (nongovernmental organization) or interning in a sustainability-related company. While working, you can test the theories you’re learning in school, as well as gather experiences that you can share in class discussions and that can enhance your term papers.