An initiative of the National Council for Workforce Education, the Sustainability Education and Economic Development Center (SEED) supports community colleges and their partners with curriculum and resources to transform educational programs for a sustainable future.

Sustainability Education

Sustainability is the idea that humans must interact with the environment in a way that ensures there will be enough resources left for future generations. Sustainability is often described as having three dimensions or pillars: environmental, economic, and social. Sustainability education focuses on educating how to counteract major environmental problems, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, land degradation, and air and water pollution.

Sustainability education asks the questions: What is sustainability? What do we want to sustain? What is a good life? How do we create a better world? It is often an integrative discipline and a multidisciplinary project with statistical, scientific, and humanistic dimensions. A still-evolving field, sustainability education has the primary goal of harnessing the power of education to advance environmental literacy and civic engagement that prepares students for jobs that contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future.

Community Colleges and Sustainability Education

Community colleges can serve as pedagogical leaders by infusing content and learning methods across all disciplines that help students develop a knowledge base about the environment, the economy, and society. Colleges can also help their communities learn how to live in a sustainable manner.

  • Adopt a college-wide learning outcome such that learners in all disciplines gain the knowledge, skills, values, and agency to address interconnected global challenges including climate change, loss of biodiversity, unsustainable use of resources, and inequality.
  • Utilize project-based educational practices to encourage learners to participate in real-life projects to address sustainability issues. Harness STEM educational techniques to help learners comprehend system interconnectedness.
  • Use campus facilities as living laboratories to demonstrate innovative technology and best practices to sustain the environment of the campus and community. Design student projects that allow students to create solutions to sustainability issues across the campus.
  • Use “ecological footprints calculators” in student projects. These footprint calculators assess environmental impacts by measuring levels of resource consumption relative to resource availability, and they may be scaled to address the consumption of individuals, campus communities, cities, or entire nations.
  • Conduct greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories on campus to establish & quantify the college’s carbon footprint and impact on the local environment. Put in place a Carbon Footprint Reduction Plan as part of the college’s strategic & infrastructure plan.