Criteria for Course Inclusion

To have a course considered for inclusion in the certificate, please submit a syllabus and a brief paragraph explaining how the course fits into our curriculum.  Please send these materials to the certificate director at Our Review Committee will consider the courses once a semester.

We base our inclusion of courses in the certificate on the AASHE Stars program (PDF). To be considered an Anchor for the certificate, the course should meet the requirements expressed in the A definition below (Foundational courses). Courses to be considered for the Spheres should meet either the requirements for B or C below. As a baseline for the spheres, we would like to see at least 50% of the course directly focused on sustainability and clearly see sustainability in the description and course objectives.

The Office of Sustainability offers a faculty development workshop for infusing sustainability into academic curricula at UGA.

From the AASHE Stars criteria

Sustainability Courses

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). This includes:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Ecological Sustainability

Courses in the ecological sustainability sphere will build upon a baseline understanding of ecology and address issues concerning ecosystem services, environmental degradation, and climate change. Courses in this area must provide a basic understanding of ecological and environmental processes, including:

  • The interdependence of species and the dynamic interrelationships within social and ecological systems
  • Systemic limits, such as carrying capacity, and the ways in which human systems can and do threaten ecological systems
  • Local biomes, watersheds, and natural history
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem health
  • Ecosystem services
  • Concepts of energy, water and waste

Ideally classes will connect this understanding of ecological processes to human and economic systems, particularly the ways in which these systems inter-relate and impact one another.

Economic Sustainability

Courses in this sphere will build upon a baseline understanding of economics and address bottom-line issues such as:

  • The economics of population growth
  • Poverty and income distribution
  • Market failures
  • Economic valuation
  • Economic incentive instruments
  • Food, water and energy resources
  • International agricultural markets
  • Fisheries, and wildlife conservation
  • Concern for intergenerational equity in the long-term decision making of a society

Classes should connect economic principles to social and ecological realities focusing on sustainable development.

Social Sustainability

Courses in the social sustainability sphere will build upon a basic understanding of social science and will address the social aspects of sustainability, including issues of cultural diversity, social justice, equality, participation, the built environment, and community. Courses must cover one or more of the following:

  • Cross-cultural perspectives of sustainability
  • Cultural assumptions of environmental and social problems
  • The relationship between poverty, social justice, and environmental degradation
  • Intergenerational responsibility
  • Power and limits of new technologies and the relationship between technological and other types of solutions
  • Impact of the built environment on ecology and society
  • Development and conservation
  • Human consumption
  • Community
  • Normative assumptions and ethical frameworks, particularly as they relate to equity, justice, human rights, and extending the moral community
  • Personal values within the context of a larger society and how these values are manifested in daily habits
  • Humans' place and limits within ecological systems
  • Principles of environmental ethics and their application to population, habitat quality, affluence, and energy use
  • Environmental rhetoric and persuasive arguments that address sustainability issues
  • Environmental Law and Policy
  • Communications and the Arts
  • Institutional factors mediating human-environment interactions
  • Unequal power relations

Ideal classes cover personal assets and those aspects of community that lead to a quality life for all now and into the future.