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Monday, June 24, 2024

Schooled in Sustainability and the Environment: 10 Top Schools

By Faith Cain and Andre Butzberger

Are you interested in turning your passion for the planet into a career? Or perhaps you want to pursue the possibilities of studying sustainability or environmental sciences to see if it’s a fit for your future. Here’s a helpful list of some of the country’s best programs offered in these fields. But first, do you know the difference between the two areas of study? Environmental science programs have been around for a lot longer than sustainability studies and each have a slightly different specialty.



Sustainability is the process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.



Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability is the first comprehensive degree-granting program of its kind in the United States with a focus on finding real-world solutions to environmental, economic and social challenges. The School of Sustainability offers undergraduate and graduate programs and minors, as well as doctoral and professional leadership programs. The institute has recently initiated the 30 percent Efficient III-V/Silicon Tandem Solar Cells project to develop a silicon-based solar cell that will have the potential to increase the solar energy conversion efficiency from 24-30 percent. sustainability.asu.edu


Portland State University’s Graduate Certificate in Sustainability provides students with an in-depth understanding of the connections between social, environmental and economic systems, and equips them with the knowledge to apply sustainable problem solving approaches in their lives and careers. The graduate certificate is open to students from all areas of study and professional backgrounds. It is also available as an add-on to a master’s or doctoral degree program. Portland State University is spearheading an initiative to increase housing options in a city with some of the fastest rising rents and lowest vacancy rates in the nation. Called “accessory dwelling units,” these small backyard homes provide more affordable housing options while reducing pollutants. pdx.edu


At Prescott College, sustainability is essential to education. Whether on campus or in the classroom, Prescott College recognizes and promotes the importance of sustainability in maintaining the health of communities and their surroundings. Prescott College is the leading provider of blended limited-residency undergraduate and graduate programs in areas of sustainability studies and Ph.D. programs in education with concentrations in sustainability education. Faculty members work with students to design a unique program that fits their career goals and educational interests. The campus runs completely on renewable electricity. Besides the generation of solar energy on campus, 100 percent of the remaining energy needs are sourced green. prescott.edu/sustainability


The academic programs in the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment at Chatham University are dedicated to producing professional sustainability leaders. All of the students, faculty and staff engage in courses, projects and careers that promote the professionalization of the fields and give students experiences that translate to real-world skills. The institute is currently admitting students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels including Master of Sustainability, Bachelor of Sustainability, and the dual degree Master of Sustainability – Master of Business Administration. Eden Hall Campus produces more energy than it consumes and also manages water and waste onsite, achieves complete carbon neutrality, and serves as a canvas upon which Falk School students and faculty develop next generation practices. falk.chatham.edu


Unity College is committed to providing students with the ability to address looming global changes. Through experiential and collaborative learning, Unity’s graduates emerge as responsible citizens, environmental stewards and visionary leaders. All areas of study at Unity College blend academic rigor, field experience, and service learning within the synthesizing framework of sustainability science. Working with local farmers at the McKay Agricultural Research Station, students in Unity’s capstone agriculture class are testing methods to produce crops in the winter as well as building an inexpensive shop-vac seeding machine that plants 3,000 seeds per hour. unity.edu



Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical, biological and information sciences to the study of the environment and the solution of environmental problems.



Environmental science at Duke University integrates various disciplines of physical and biological sciences to better understand the natural world, promote careful stewardship of resources and find solutions to environmental problems. Since the Nicholas School of the Environment was founded in 1991, it has brought together natural and social scientists from the former School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem solving. The strength of the Nicholas School of the Environment is in its rigorous Ph.D. program, where students expand their understanding of earth and social systems and how their interactions shape our world. Last month, researchers from Duke University played a key role in organizing an international symposium at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. The event focused on the contributions made by small-scale fisheries to sustainable development and food security. nicholas.duke.edu


The environmental sciences major at Berkeley is a top-rated interdisciplinary program in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management Department. It deals with the impact of human activities on natural systems. ESPM is part of the College of Natural Resources, established in 1868, making it the oldest college in the University of California system. Environmental science majors finish their degree with a year-long research project, during which time students investigate an issue, design and execute independent research and present their results in oral and written form. Along with recycling most paper, plastic and metal products, the Berkeley campus currently composts a portion of food waste, compostable kitchenware, green and wood waste and pallets with a goal of zero waste by 2020. nature.berkeley.edu


The sustainability science and practice program at Stanford University integrates theoretical and conceptual knowledge with practical skills to prepare students to both envision a sustainable future and know how to design the practices and cultivate partnerships essential to building that future. In 2005, Stanford added the Department of Environmental Earth System Science which transformed the School of Earth Sciences into a world leader in environmental sciences and engineering. The school provides hands-on learning experiences and student research opportunities in small-scale and urban sustainable agriculture with the Stanford Educational Farm, field courses and new data tools. Computer simulations developed by Stanford researchers reveal life-saving sound waves from the ocean. During an earthquake, detecting these sound waves can identify a tsunami minutes before it reaches land, potentially saving thousands of people. earth.stanford.edu


Environmental science and engineering in Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is an interdisciplinary program with the common goal of understanding, predicting and responding to human-induced environmental change. The Harvard University Center for the Environment, established in 2001, encourages research and education of the environment and its many interactions with human society. Harvard trains undergraduate and graduate students to think about environmental processes in an integrated fashion, preparing them to manage the challenges the world faces. Harvard’s new climate action plan clears a path to shift campus operations further away from fossil fuels. With a long-term goal of eliminating their use of fossil fuels by 2050 and a short-term goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2026, the plan focuses on using renewable energy sources such as solar or offshore winds. environment.harvard.edu


Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies aspires to lead the world toward a sustainable future with cutting-edge research, teaching and public engagement on society’s evolving and urgent environmental challenges. Founded in 1900, the school serves as a locus for research into local, regional and global environmental issues. The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies offers an environmental program for undergraduates, 14 masters and joint masters degrees, a doctoral and two combined doctoral degrees. In May, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication was honored by the American Association for Public Opinion Research for their work in developing new statistical methodology to understand and map public opinion on climate change at state and local levels across the nation. environment.yale.edu



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