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AASHE STARS STANDARDS AND TERMS FOR SUSTAINABILITY COURSES, COURSES THAT INCLUDE SUSTAINABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH

Source: STARS Technical Manual v2.1, May 2016  

Sustainability courses are "courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability and/or on understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenge (e.g. the course contributes toward achieving principles outlined in the Earth Charter). This includes:

A. Foundational courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability as an integrated concept having social, economic and environmental dimensions. Obvious examples include Introduction to Sustainability, Sustainable Development, and Sustainability Science, however courses may also count if their course descriptions indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability.

B. Courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on the application of sustainability within a field. As sustainability is an interdisciplinary topic, such courses generally incorporate insights from multiple disciplines. Obvious examples include Sustainable Agriculture, Architecture for Sustainability, and Sustainable Business, however courses may also count if their course descriptions indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability within a field.

C. Courses in which the primary focus is on providing skills and/or knowledge directly connected to understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenges. A course might provide knowledge and understanding of the problem or tools for solving it, for example Climate Change Science, Renewable Energy Policy, Environmental Justice, or Green Chemistry. Such courses do not necessarily cover “sustainability” as a concept, but should address more than one of the dimensions of sustainability (i.e., social wellbeing, economic prosperity and environmental health)."

A course that includes sustainability is "primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability, but incorporates a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, includes one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrates sustainability issues throughout the course. To count, these units/modules, activities or issues should be documented in course descriptions or syllabi. 

While a foundational course such as chemistry or sociology might provide knowledge that is useful to practitioners of sustainability, it would not be considered to be inclusive of sustainability unless the concept of sustainability or a sustainability challenge is specifically integrated into the course. Likewise, although specific tools or practices such as GIS (Geographical Information Systems) or engineering can be applied towards sustainability, such courses would not count unless they incorporated a unit on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, included a sustainability-focused activity, or incorporated sustainability issues throughout the course."

Sustainability research is “research that leads toward solutions that simultaneously support social well being, economic prosperity, and ecological health.  It includes research and scholarship that:

-Explicitly addresses sustainability and/or furthers our understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental issues;

-Contributes directly toward solving one or more major sustainability challenge (e.g. contributes toward achieving principles outlined in the Earth Charter); and/or

- Engages community members with the aim of combining knowledge and action to achieve positive social, economic and environmental outcomes  (e.g. participatory and community-based research and engaged scholarship)”.