ENVIR 480: Sustainability Studio

Don't just learn about sustainability - be engaged in it, here and now.

This course develops students as change agents for environmental sustainability at the University of Washington. In Sustainability Studio, students partner with faculty and staff in applied, campus-based projects. In addition, the course instructor provides students with regular and in-depth mentoring and advising. The specific topic of Sustainability Studio changes every quarter, reflecting student interest and campus partnership opportunities.

Experiential Learning

Get out of the classroom and onto the UW campus.

Sustainability Studio engages students in the basic steps of experiential learning: experience, reflect, and apply.

Experience

Power Plant Visit

Class tour of the UW Power Plant

Students learn about the specific sustainability topic, hear from campus and community experts, and engage in relevant field-based activities. In this stage, we build on what students already know and feel, to develop a more sophisticated collective understanding of campus sustainability and the specific topic. Sometimes we also include personal experiments, such as committing to a personal week of zero waste.

Reflect

At this stage, the focus is on sharing and processing. Students reflect on their reactions and observations, sometimes in a journal or essay form, and process their thoughts via class discussion and analysis. Students then share these reflections with the broader community, via a memo, newspaper op-ed, or blog post.

Apply

studio presentation

The course culminates in a final community presentation

After reflecting on the topic, students propose innovative and flexible solutions (in the shape of applied projects). They get feedback on those solutions from expert guest critics, project partners and clients, classmates, and faculty. Past projects have included case studies, pilot projects, experiments, research, data analysis, development of communication materials, and more. As part of their project-based work, students create professional deliverables that contribute to UW sustainability and gain new skills and experiences relevant to a career path in sustainability work.

The instructor for the 2012-2013 academic year is Megan Horst. Her e-mail is horstm@uw.edu.

Upcoming Topic

Spring 2015: Topic to be announced in January, 2015

Past Projects

Autumn 2014: Biking and Walking for Transportation: Fostering Behavior Change at the UW

Trash

Students worked with Transportation Services to develop social media and other tools to foster behavior change, particularly around walking and cycling among the UW community.

Final Report

Teams: Outreach to new students, A ticket to ride, #IBiketoUW, Velo Vignette, Secret shopping at UW bike shops.

Final Presentation

Spring 2014: Food & the Environment: Life cycle analysis of UW food purchases

Trash

Students conducted life cycle assessments to determine the environmental impacts of various food items purchased by Housing and Food Services. Teams made recommendations for HFS to improve the sustainability of its purchases.

Final Report

Teams: Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of different food items such as salmon, beef, bread, milk and more.

Final Presentation

Winter 2014: Climate Action and Renewable Energy

Energy

Students collaborated with on-campus partners to identify and develop policy and strategies for further adoption of renewable energy by the UW. See below for one team's report on Renewable Energy Feasibility.

Final Report

Team Report:

Renewable Energy Feasibility Analysis at the University of Washington

Final Presentation

Teams: Conservation, Renewable Energy Feasibility, Solar, Human Generated Electricity, Education and Outreach.

Autumn 2013: Green Athletics

Investing

Students explored the relationship between sustainability goals and sports, focusing especially on the new football stadium, the arena, fields and office buildings.

Final Report

Teams: Athlete locker rooms, local food in Husky Stadium, Husky Football transportation analysis & carbon offset options, engaging fans through social media.

Final Presentation

Spring 2013: Greening up UW's investments

Investing

Students partnered with high-level financial administrators at the UW to explore potential green investing strategies, and their social and economic implications for the University of Washington.

Final Report

Teams: Educational outreach, disclosure, stakeholder activism, divestment, green revolving funds.

Final Presentation

Winter 2013: Zero Waste - From You to UW

Trash

Exploring what it will take to reach the UW goal of 70% waste diversion by 2020.

Final Report

Teams: Education, inventory, reusables, biodiesel soap, sourcing.

Final Presentation

Autumn 2012: Greening UW Labs

Green Labs

Improving the sustainability of campus labs by reducing waste, sharing best practices, and improving incentive programs.

Final Report

Teams: Sink aerators & grow Lights, green purchasing, waste streams, energy consumption.

Final Presentation

Spring 2012: Carbon and Climate Change

Green Labs

Projects that are directly related to the decrease of carbon emissions into the environment.

Final Report

Teams: Sign campaign for active transportation, barriers in more sustainable transportation, building case studies: Poplar and Hansee residence halls, incentivizing behavior change in the residence halls, Grin Panda Project: a short film competition

 

Winter 2012: Water

Green Labs

Examination of the ways the UW uses water on campus within the theoretical framework of sustainability.

Final Report

Teams: Implementing rain gardens at the UW, permeable pavements, rainwater harvesting at the UW Farm and Botany Greenhouse

 

Autumn 2011: Transportation

Green Labs

By exploring the various barriers to sustainable transportation through the dynamic relationship of both individual behavior and infrastructure impediments, our class addressed specific but fundamental issues to sustainability on campus.

Final Report

Teams: Barriers for biking to school, barriers for using public transit, from behavior to infrastructure, infrastructure projects, greenways

 

Winter 2011: Behavior Change in Residence Halls

Green Labs

Promoting sustainable behavior change in the UW residence halls.

Final Report

Teams: Composting, bring your own mug, electricity use

 

Autumn 2010: Habitat

Green Labs

Increasing campus biodiversity through the creation of wildlife habitat.

Final Report

Teams: Barn owl boxes, re-wilding, best practices

 

Spring 2010: Food

Green Labs

In this course, the most recent theme for student research was the "wedge of food". Becoming sustainable with respect to food is obviously important in its own right, but food is also a key to solving other vexing social, environmental, and economic problems.

Final Report

Teams: Fish, compost, protein, student knowledge

 

Winter 2010: Green Buildings

Green Labs

Students looked at the sustainability of the newly renovated space of the UW's Program on the Environment in Wallace Hall.

Final Report

Teams: Wood, furniture, wall materials, lighting, floor & ceiling

 

Autumn 2009: Energy

Green Labs

Examining how electricity could be conserved on campus.

Final Report

Teams: Patterns of energy use, daylight harvesting, computers and conservation, vampire energy awareness, lighting technology

 

Spring 2009: Water

Green Labs

The use of multiple scales and dimensions allowed for our teams to identify the way in which water enters our campus and leaves our campus.

Final Report

Teams: Green roofs, stormwater, toxic vanity, showing at the IMA, think outside the bottle