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Resources for Understanding & Teaching Sustainability

This website was designed as a clearinghouse of information to help teachers, students, and others interested in finding meaning in the sustainability concept -- what it is, how and why it came to be, and how it is being implemented, supported, and challenged. This homepage is connected to a database of some 6,000 entries including academic publications, news articles, reports, videos, and websites. The topics vary widely across all fields. The database was launched in June 2013 and will undergo continuous development and improvement over the coming weeks. -- Brian Kermath, Sustainability Director, UW Oshkosh [Please send comments to:]

Why teach sustainability?

“Sustainability implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are (at a minimum)
ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future
generations. A truly sustainable college or university would emphasize these concepts in its
curriculum and research, preparing students to contribute as working citizens to an environmentally
sound and socially just society.
The institution would function as a sustainable community, embodying
responsible consumption of food and energy, treating its diverse members with respect, and supporting
these values in the surrounding community.”

Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future


A central goal of a liberal arts education is to broadly train students so that they may become responsible citizens who can understand and respond to the complex issues that they face. Sustainability represents a complex, interconnected and ever-changing set of issues, and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has adopted it as an Essential Learning Outcome in its new general education program, the University Studies Program.

The sustainability concept grew out of concerns that post-World War II development efforts were falling short on two fronts: 1) although they were contributing to economic growth, they were performing poorly in improving human welfare in many regions; 2) they were depleting resources faster than they could be renewed or substituted, degrading the environment in many places, pushing global biogeochemical thresholds in unprecedented ways, and undermining ambitious nature conservation efforts.

In this context, sustainability represents the merging of conservation and development goals for the long-term health of human societies and Earth’s life-giving processes that support them. Sustainability is now widely accepted as the way forward by governments, businesses, educational institutions, NGOs, communities, and individuals worldwide.

Below are some resources that may be of value as you begin incorporating sustainability ideas into your courses. These resources are part of a Sustainability Reference Database that contains academic and popular articles, books, reports, videos, links, and other resources related to sustainability.

Introductory materials:

  • Sustainability learning goals for students: The UWO sustainability rubric (pasword required)
  • USP resources for the Sustainability Signature Question (including tips and resources)
  • Sample Syllabi: A few good examples of how sustainability can be taught in a variety of disciplines
  • Special Topics

  • Bee colony collapse (colony collapse disorder)
  • Biomimicry
  • Campus basics
  • Campus green fund
  • Carbon sequestration (or carbon capture)
  • Consumption
  • Deforestation
  • Eco Communities
  • Energy
  • Environmental health
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Green design
  • Landscaping
  • Neoliberalism
  • Nonprofit, nongovernmental org's
  • Nutrient loading (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus)
  • Ozone Depletion
  • Precautionary principle
  • Sense of place
  • Social issues
  • Vulnerability
  • Link to the complete, searchable Sustainability References Database
    by Hansen, Shawn M. last modified Apr 13, 2014 11:34 AM
    Contributors: brian kermath, stephanie spehar

    Teaching Resources CTA