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Curriculum is a core component of the Office of Sustainability and the Ohio University Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. Specific goals, benchmarks, strategies, and data can be found on the curriculum site.

Curriculum infographic. Click the graphic for a screen-reader friendly webpage

Sustainability Courses  |  AASHE Sustainability Definitions

Featured Sustainability Courses

A selected list of courses typically available are given below. The list is not comprehensive. Please check the Ohio University course catalog by term for actual course offerings.

Chemical Engineering

CHE 4530:  Alternative Fuels and Renewable Energy

Global energy outlook, available energy resources, energy sustainability, and fuel conversion technologies are discussed. Alternative energy options and their utilization technologies are covered. Associated environmental issues and relevant technologies are assessed. Special emphases are placed on alternative transportation fuels, renewable energies, energy efficiencies, and clean technologies.

Civil Engineering

CE 4540/5540:  Sustainable Construction

Investigations into green building construction practices and sustainability including use of novel or recycled materials, energy management and efficiency, water use/re-use, and indoor air quality.

College of Arts & Sciences 

CAS 2300:  Themes in Action

This 1-credit hour course focuses on key questions and topics related to a selected curricular theme, such as Food Studies; Making & Breaking the Law; Sustainability Studies; War & Peace; Wealth & Poverty. Through the course, students engage in a series of campus and/or community events and activities associated with the designated theme (e.g., lectures, film series, field trips, workshops, community service opportunities), and they discuss, read about, and reflect in writing on these events and activities in relation to key questions, issues and concerns of the selected curricular theme.


ENG 3100J:  Writing About Environmental Sustainability

Our readings, film screenings, discussions (oral and online), research and composing will be focused on relations between people and the environment, primarily but not exclusively, in our regional environment. We will explore mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, the natural history of the region's forests, industrial food systems and "locavore" (agri)culture. Our approach will be "ecological" in the sense of attempting to understand our complex interrelationships with the natural and artificial systems we rely on and of which we are a part. We will take a similar approach to environmental rhetoric and use rhetorical analysis as the main means of mapping connections among informative, persuasive, and creative discourse on these topics.

Environmental and Plant Biology

PBIO 1000:  Plants and the Global Environment

Students examine the importance of plants in providing global resources for humans and the impact of human activity on the sustainability of these resources. We evaluate the value of laws and policies in protecting plant resources and mitigating climate change. Non-science majors course.

Environmental Studies

ES 4832/5832:  Sustainability Implementation Practicum 

This course involves students in a critical analysis of the Ohio University Sustainability Plan and community-based projects that support the Office of Sustainability's mission. Students are engaged in the exploration of contemporary environmental initiatives, leadership, professionalism and local issues. Implementation of effective projects and feasibility studies to advance institutional sustainability efforts provides students the opportunity to make meaningful changes within their campus and community. This course’s focus allows students the opportunity to better define sustainability and the role it plays in their lives, enhance skills that encourage sustainable behaviors and make positive contributions to their health, the natural environment and the local community. 

ES 4900:  Special Topics in Environmental Studies “Debating Sustainability"

Designed as an undergraduate seminar on contemporary environmental issues.

ES 6815:  Community-Based Sustainability

Students study concepts of environmental sustainability and the balance of social, environmental, and economic impacts of human activity. Students discuss and analyze contemporary environmental problems and their relationship to socio-cultural and economic systems. Students examine global and regional environmental legacy and current issues and consider the scientific basis for policy options. Students learn about the Appalachian region in the context of environmental issues and engage with community organizations.


GEOG 2060: The Physical and Global Dimensions of Climate Change 

This course examines the broad concepts associated with global climate change from physical, social, and global perspectives. Topics covered include: the physical scientific basis for global climate change, the biological and physical impacts of climate change, climate change mitigation, and climate communication.

GEOG 2400:  Environmental Geography 

Geographic survey of environmental changes caused by human activities. Focus on resource availability and use, pollution of air, water, and biosphere, energy problems, interactions of humans with plant and animal communities, climate change, and sustainability planning. 

GEOG 4520/5520:  Environment and Sustainability Planning

An introduction to how urban planning tools can be used to support the natural environment and promote local and regional sustainability. Outlines strategies for meeting important biodiversity, water resources, hazard mitigation, working landscape, waste management, and air quality goals. Connects environmental planning with supportive topics such as environmental policy and governance, sustainability and climate action planning, environmental justice, and environmental assessment.

GEOG 4560:  The Just and Sustainable City

A critical examination of the role of nature and political economy in the sustainable development of urban environments in the context of social and environmental justice. Topics studied include the relationship between urbanism and nature, environmental justice, compact versus sprawling development, slums in developing world cities, urban agriculture as a solution to urban hunger, toxic lawn ecologies, uneven urban forests and parks, vulnerability to urban climate changes, brownfield redevelopment and the specter of gentrification, and the role of animals in the city, among other topics. These topics are studied in both developed and developing world contexts. Students taking this course will also be asked to evaluate urban sustainability initiatives related to these topics with concepts of social and environmental justice in mind.

Mechanical/Energy Engineering

ME 4350/5350: Energy Engineering and Management

Application of the Law of Conservation of Matter, Law of Conservation of Energy, and considerations of efficiency, economic impact and environmental impact to the analysis of the relative merits of conventional and alternative energy sources for industrial, residential, and transportation use.

ME4930: Special Investigations: Building Energy Treasure Hunt 

Students will be offered a real-life opportunity to perform an energy audit on a campus building. This energy audit will include fundamental energy engineering tasks such as initial and final building energy use intensity calculations and a building inspection as well as interactions with ‘clients’ and other technical staff, as would occur in a professional setting. 


NUTR 1100:  Introduction to Food Systems 

Components of the food system and all processes that maintain our food supply, including growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming, and disposing of food/food packages. Interaction of the food system with social, political, economic and natural environments. Sustainability of the food system. Impact of the food system on nutritional well-being. 

Political Science

POLS 4840/5840:  The Politics of Sustainability

Political questions are interwoven throughout the discourse and practice of sustainability. Is there a difference between sustainability and sustainable development? Is environmental sustainability the paramount goal, or should natural capital be sacrificed to pursue economic prosperity and social equity? Analyzes the inherent ambiguities of the three dimensions of sustainability--environmental, economic and social sustainability--and the political challenges associated with achieving sustainability at the local, national and global scales.

Recreation and Sport Pedagogy

REC 3550/5550:  Principles of EcoTourism

Introduce students to both theory and practical applications of concepts surrounding ecotourism and sustainable development. An understanding of the benefits and weaknesses of ecotourism as a sustainable development approach is the focus of the course. Theory, practice, history, terminology and issues of ecotourism planning and management are examined. Additionally, the motives and behaviors of tourists, natural resources as attractions and destinations, social and resource responsibility and establishing policies and principles for sustainability are discussed.


SOC 3090C:  Sociology of Appalachia

Appalachia, a region examined by sociologists for more than 100 years, continues to be a subject of study for academics seeking to demystify the region and foster positive change for its people and the land. The politics of the region, the persistence of poverty, and the development and sustainability of the economy, environment, and society are main themes in Appalachian studies that the course explores from a sociological perspective. Additional topics relevant to the sociology of Appalachia may include but are not limited to social movements and social media, transitional economies, and the dynamics of Appalachian culture and identity.


Sustainability Course Listings

Ohio University offers a multitude of courses and degrees on sustainability. To find classes that may be available throughout your college experience, check out these links:

AASHE Sustainability Definitions

Please read below or download this document to read the definitions of "sustainability-inclusive" courses, "sustainability-focused" courses or learning outcomes and "sustainability research" according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). 

Definition of Sustainability challenge from AASHE STARS

AASHE defines sustainability in a pluralistic and inclusive way, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations. Major sustainability challenges include (but are not limited to) climate change, global poverty and inequality, natural resource depletion, and environmental degradation. Today most uses of and references to sustainability emphasize the concept’s simultaneous economic, environmental, and social dimensions. For example, businesses talk about the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits (or, alternately, human capital, natural capital, and financial capital).

Definition of Sustainability Academic Courses from AASHE STARS

A course may be sustainability-focused or sustainability-inclusive; no course should be identified as both.

To count as sustainability-focused, the course title or description must indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability. The course title or description does not have to use the term “sustainability” to count as sustainability- focused if the primary and explicit focus of the course is on the interdependence of ecological and social/economic systems or a major sustainability challenge.

To count as sustainability-inclusive, the course description or rationale provided in the course inventory must indicate that the course incorporates a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, includes one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrates sustainability challenges, issues, and concepts throughout the course.

Definition of Sustainability Learning Outcomes from AASHE STARS

Consistent with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (​UNESCO), student learning outcomes are defined as:

Statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand, and be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning as well as the specific intellectual and practical skills gained and demonstrated by the successful completion of a unit, course, or programme. Learning outcomes, together with assessment criteria, specify the minimum requirements for the award of credit, while grading is based on attainment above or below the minimum requirements for the award of credit. Learning outcomes are distinct from the aims of learning in that they are concerned with the achievements of the learner rather than with the overall intentions of the teacher.

Thus, sustainability learning outcomes are statements that outline the specific sustainability knowledge and skills that a student is expected to have gained and demonstrated by the successful completion of a unit, course, or program. Mission, vision, and values statements do not qualify.

Sustainability-focused learning outcomes are student learning outcomes that explicitly address the concept of sustainability. A learning outcome does not necessarily have to include the term “sustainability” to count as sustainability-focused as long as there is an explicit focus on the interdependence of ecological systems and social/economic systems. Specific examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Students will be able to define sustainability and identify major sustainability challenges.
  • Students will have an understanding of the carrying capacity of ecosystems as related to providing for human needs.
  • Students will be able to apply concepts of sustainable development to address sustainability challenges in a global context.
  • Students will identify, act on, and evaluate their professional and personal actions with the knowledge and appreciation of interconnections among economic, environmental, and social perspectives.

Sustainability-supportive learning outcomes are student learning outcomes that​ ​​include specific intellectual and practical skills (and/or attitudes and values) that are critical for addressing sustainability challenges, but do not explicitly address the concept of sustainability (e.g., systems and holistic thinking, change agent skills, interdisciplinary capacities, social and ethical responsibility). Specific examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the nature of systems.
  • Students will have an understanding of their social responsibility as future professionals and citizens.
  • Students will be able to accommodate individual differences in their decisions and actions and be able to negotiate across these differences.
  • Students will be able to analyze power, structures of inequality, and social systems that govern individual and communal life.
  • Students will be able to recognize the global implications of their actions.

Definition of Sustainability Research from AASHE STARS

Sustainability research is research and scholarship that explicitly addresses the concept of sustainability, furthers our understanding of the interdependence of ecological and social/economic systems, or has a primary and explicit focus on a major sustainability challenge.

Degrees & Certificates

Bachelors Degree Programs

Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Sustainability Environmental Science and Sustainability is a multi-disciplinary program that provides scientific knowledge of the natural world, the living organisms that inhabit it, and social sciences at the core of sustainability. Students learn the scientific principles that underlie environmental issues, the effects of human actions, and the public policies and regulations that influence those actions.

Bachelors of Science in Geography – Urban Planning and Sustainability. The Urban Planning and Sustainability major provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to envision and craft urban environments that embrace the three key components of sustainability: environment, economy, and equity. Students completing this interdisciplinary, forward-looking program will develop sophisticated understandings of cities and their role in the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. The curriculum emphasizes urban, sustainability, and planning theory and process, in addition to a strong foundation in geography and its major analytical techniques.

Masters Degree Programs

Masters of Science in Environmental Studies: Ohio University's Master of Science in Environmental Studies curriculum combines graduate coursework with solid research. Created in 1970, the program meets the needs of students looking for a broader academic experience than a traditional course of study can provide. The program gives students the flexibility to pursue coursework and research spanning several disciplines. Our students have backgrounds ranging from business, humanities, and the social sciences to the physical and biological sciences and engineering.

Online Master of Sustainability, Security, and Resilience 

This innovative program is designed to teach both the theory of effective climate change adaptation as well as the technical skills to implement it.  The certificates can be earned individually or stacked to culminate with the capstone class and into a degree. Please note that only select classes from the program are offered each semester.

This is a five-semester (18-month) online program designed for working professionals. Complete the program at your own pace, taking two asynchronous classes each semester wherever you are.

The program consists of three certificates and a capstone course. Related Programs


Environmental Studies Sustainability and Resilience Undergraduate Certificate

 The Environmental Studies Sustainability and Resilience Certificate is an opportunity for students to earn recognition for taking a cross-section of environmentally-themed courses from a variety of disciplines. Students in the certificate program have the opportunity for cross-disciplinary learning in a required capstone course or leadership internship tackling a key topic in environmental studies. Past course topics have included climate change and global sustainability.

Community Risk and Resilience Certificate

  • ES 5610 - Resilience Theory and Practice
  • ES 5640 - Risk, Climate Security, and Community Engagement
  • ES 5630 - Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience Policy

Environmental Change Management and Leadership Certificate 

  • ES 5620 - Environmental Science and Public Policy
  • ES 5831 - Environmental Sustainability Assessment
  • ES 6840 - Environmental Leadership

Planning Resilient Systems Certificate

  • ES 5740 - Strategies for Resilient Agriculture
  • ES 5730 - Environmental Entrepreneurship
  • ES 5720 - Energy Systems and Policy

Completed Class and Co-curricular Projects

Class and co-curricular projects are not only experiential learning tools, but can assist Ohio University in advancing sustainability initiatives from a conceptual to a design or pilot implementation phase.  The sustainability projects included below are examples of successfully completed projects.  Once projects progress to full implementation phase, they are included in our Sustainability Hubs & Initiatives webpages.

Selected Projects from ES 4832/5832

Students enrolled in Sustainability Implementation (ES4832/5832) work with academic and administrative teams across campus to identify sustainable solutions to institutional issues. Previous projects have included work on Zero Waste Athletics, Take Back the Tap and the Real Food Challenge, along with studies to analyze how to reduce post-consumer food waste in dining halls and a cost-benefit analysis of the compost facility, among many others.