Over 20 Courses Toward the Sustainability Minor Offered this Fall

Post Contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

Academic Sustainability Programs has prepared a listing of all courses in the Minor in Sustainability Studies that will be offered this summer and fall semesters, as well as related courses that are not yet officially in the minor.

This summer, 5 courses will be offered, mostly online but some in person on campus. During the fall semester, a range of 21 courses spanning 7 colleges on campus will be offered. These may be used toward the Minor in Sustainability Studies, as free electives, or in some cases as part of your core curriculum requirements.

To see details of the Academic Sustainability course offerings and download a handy reference document, click here.

Also for a complete listing of all sustainability-related courses on campus, including those in various majors across all colleges, see the Academic Sustainability Program’s campus-wide course inventories by clicking here.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Chadwick by email if you have any questions about upcoming courses related to sustainability, as you plan your summer and fall course schedules.

Read More

An Eye-Opening Experience Abroad

Post contributed by Ethan Heard, Sophomore at Auburn University

Over the past month and a half, I have been all over the world. My journey started when I landed in Dunedin, New Zealand, and it ended in Nadi, Fiji. Now I know what you are wondering how that could be an “eye-opening experience” when it sounds like the vacation trip of a lifetime. In some ways you would be right, as it was in many ways. However, I learned so much from the places I visited, the differences in culture, and the friends I made. My name is Ethan, and I am a rising sophomore this year at Auburn University. I went on this trip to learn about sustainability and get credit for my sustainability minor, but I got so much more. It changed my world view, and now it is my turn to hopefully share a piece of that with you, the students of Auburn University who might also be interested in going on such an adventure.

I began my odyssey in the Nashville International Airport where I said goodbye to my parents and my grandmother and stepped onto a plane. At first, I really questioned whether or not what I was doing was really real at all. It all felt so surreal. I was honestly dumbfounded and all I could think was “I am going to New Zealand.” By the time I had landed I was still in a state of disbelief. I could not believe I was in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Instantly upon arriving I could tell I was not in Kansas (Alabama) anymore. Everything was so different; it did not matter that New Zealand is a westernized country. Cars were on the wrong side of the road, and everyone had an accent or rather I had an accent. I did not even know what kind of coffee to order because I had never heard of them before. Luckily, the locals were nice and smiled and helped me out. One of the things I immediately noticed in New Zealand was that invasive species and foreign bacteria are something they take very very seriously. In customs in the airport they had signs everywhere declaring that if you have any fruit, food, or any organic matter you need to dispose of it now or you could possibly be fined or even detained. There were all sorts of questions on the customs form like have you been in an outdoors environment anywhere recently, have you been camping or hiking recently, and are you carrying any outdoor equipment with you. Being the ever-outdoorsy person, I was really nervous because I had to answer yes to all of these questions. When I finally got to the lady in charge of my line I was double checking myself to make sure I had honestly answered all the questions on the form and that I had not lied about anything. In the end it was fine, as she asked me a few more questions and then I was on my way to New Zealand.

Photo of Student in New ZealandThe focus of our trip was to learn about sustainability through eco-tourism, cultural tourism, and simply visiting New Zealand and Fiji. Afterwards we are to be asked how we can share what we learned abroad and relate it back to Auburn to see how we could possibly improve our university for ourselves, our fellow students, and our environment. Our first educational activity was eco-tourism in New Zealand. One of the major problems in New Zealand is the invasive species that were brought over by first the Maori and later the Europeans. As you may know, New Zealand is particularly known for its wide variety of indigenous birds. We have all heard of the kiwi bird after all. But a big threat to the kiwi and other birds are invasive mammals since there are no mammals indigenous to New Zealand other than the whale and the dolphin. When Europeans arrived, they wanted a game animal to hunt for its fur like they would do back home in England. So, they brought over rabbits from England and possums from Australia. What they did not know, was that without any natural predators the populations of these animals would rise uncontrollably. This would eventually lead to problems with their main export at the time, wool. Because of the overpopulating of possums and rabbits there was no food or grass left over for their herds to eat; to counter this problem they introduced yet another species to the island, the stoat. A stoat is a weasel-like animal similar to the mongoose that will essentially kill any other animal it can. As you can probably guess, this didn’t work. The stoat killed the rabbits and possums, but it did not stop there. They also went after the indigenous birds of New Zealand. They managed to drive forty-five percent of New Zealand’s bird species to extinction. What we can learn from this is that the introduction of invasive species can be very damaging. If you are from Alabama you know what kudzu is and how much of it has taken over our trees. In Auburn we could make a conscious effort to avoid planting unnaturally occurring species on our campus and be more aware that our actions have consequences on the environment.

My adventure continued in Fiji on the tiny uncharted island of Vorovoro. It was here that my world view and my outlook on life were utterly shattered and altered. I did not know what to expect when they said we would be living on a remote island with a tribe, and what I imagined was nowhere close to my actual experience. It was very refreshing. The way we lived was clean and sustainable for the most part. We used only solar power and collected rain water for drinking and bathing. This was the furthest from modern western culture that I have ever experienced. Next to nothing was wasted on the island. As Tui Mali once explained “to be good is to be like the coconut tree. Be good like the coconut tree. All parts of the coconut tree are used from its coconuts, to its leaves, and to its trunk.” Not even our waste was wasted. We used composting toilets that would repurpose human waste into a nutrient rich manure. Showers were rationed to two a week. We did not eat to excess; we ate exactly what our bodies needed and we ate healthy too. What Auburn could learn from our experience is that we do not always need more. We need only use what we already have. We have untapped power coming from our sun that can be converted into electricity. We should not take more than we are going to use whether it be food or something we can all relate to as students, such as paper.

On Vorovoro we could see the excess flowing from the nearby city of Labasa in the form of the trash that litters the island’s beaches. Most obviously we could use less plastic and invest in reusable water bottles. Auburn has already made great strides in that. Offices from around campus have worked with Facilities Management to bring recycling bins into every nook and cranny on campus as well as installing the “Weagle Water” filtered water stations that you see on campus as well. As college students we have the power to make these changes. We have the power to lessen the amount of waste we generate. If it were not for us there would not be an Auburn University, so why not exercise that power?

Studying abroad opened my eyes to the amount of waste we as Americans and as Auburn students generate. I have seen firsthand how our actions affect our environment, mainly in the form of climate change like in New Zealand. It has made me open my eyes to see that there are things we can do as students to make our university a better place for everyone and the environment. So, no, studying abroad in New Zealand and Fiji is not just a vacation of a lifetime; it is a life-changing and mind-opening experience that will change your outlook on the world for the better and for as long as you live.

Read More

My Brother Jona

Post contributed by Dominic Linehan, Freshman in Natural Resources Management

I woke up early, around 6 in the morning. My host brother, Jona, was already awake and waiting for me. This was the first time that I saw him in daylight. The night before, he had gone to the mainland to pick up his brother from work for the weekend and had gotten back late. But still, he was up with the sunrise, and ready to get to work. We grabbed our machetes and headed out behind the house. We were walking towards Jona’s cassava patches on the edge of the village of Vesi. Jona has a whole plantation behind his house, full of cassava plants, banana trees, coconuts, and more. We were headed out to pull some Cassava for breakfast.

Fiji House Photo
Typical House In Vesi Photo Credit: Emily Ollero

As we walked on a dirt path through the trees, I noticed that Jona had a limp, and a pretty bad one. His knee was all twisted, and he moved in jerky, irregular motions. He pointed to a ripe papaya above his head and told me to grab it. I plucked it off the tree and we kept going. A few minutes later, we reached Jona’s cassava patches, and quickly pulled three of the large plants out of the ground. After planting a few more cassava plants to replace the ones we took, Jona and I sat on the ground and cut into our papaya.

While we were sat there eating, we got to talking. We exchanged stories about our families and talked briefly about my trip to Fiji so far. Jona then told me that he used to be a fisherman, going diving for a living. One day, while he was out spearfishing, he lost track of time and ran out of oxygen at 60 meters below the surface. He had just enough left in his tank to make an emergency ascent to the surface, but in doing so he got decompression sickness, and was paralyzed from the neck down for a year. Years later, he still struggles to walk, and his fine motor skills in his hands have not completely recovered yet.

Even with these injuries, Jona continues to go fishing regularly, although he rarely sells his catch anymore. The fish, combined with what he grows on his plantation is enough for him. If he needs anything else, he can trade with other people in the village. On the occasion that he does really need to buy something, he will catch some fish, pull cassava, and head into the town of Labasa to sell them. Other than that, Jona said that he doesn’t need any money in Vesi, and he likes it that way. His friends in the village will always be there for him and will help him out if he is in need. That is the way life works in the village. Everyone is family, and they all help each other. After we finished our papaya, we grabbed our machetes and fresh cassava, and walked back to the village to have breakfast.

I learned a lot from Jona that day. He taught me about a whole different way of life. He taught me to look at money differently, and to not get so caught up in trying to become rich. I learned about community, and the importance of family- even if they are not related by blood. He made me think about my life, and where I am headed. Will I ever be as happy as the man that I met in Vesi? Will I be able to live my life as sustainably as him? Hopefully, one day, I will have it all figured out, just like my brother Jona.

Read More

Largest Selection of Sustainability Courses to Date

Post contributed by Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

For fall semester, Academic Sustainability Programs is offering the largest-ever selection of approved sustainability courses at Auburn. Several new courses have been added this year, including selections related to community planning, food systems, and biosystems engineering. The total number of approved courses in sustainability is now 43, comprising 2 general introductory courses, 40 electives (spanning 8 colleges across campus), and a capstone course in which students conduct real-world projects related to local and campus sustainability issues.

Into to Sustainability class
Students in an Introduction to Sustainability class pose with a concept map.

All courses have been vetted by a Sustainability Minor Committee, and may be used either toward the minor, as free electives, or in some cases toward students’ majors or core courses.
About half of these courses are being offered this fall semester, with some also available this summer, and some even available as online courses.
For a complete listing of all the current courses in sustainability studies, and the pattern of past course offerings (so students can plan on which semesters courses are usually offered), see our downloadable pdf file of classes.

You can also find more general information about the minor and other course information (including study abroad), on the Academic Sustainability Programs website.

Faculty: if you are interested in your course becoming approved toward the sustainability minor, please submit an application form.

Best wishes to students as you register for summer and fall semesters. Please feel free to contact Dr. Chadwick at chadwna@auburn.edu with any questions, or if you would like to make an appointment to discuss course options.

Read More

Would You Love to Make a Difference as a Part of Our Team?

Our 2016-17 interns pause for a brief photo while exploring Baltimore at the 2016 AASHE conference.

The Auburn University Office of Sustainability is offering unpaid student internship opportunities for the 2017-18 school year beginning with the Fall semester in August.

Students interested in or passionate about sustainability, who want to make a difference by applying their talents, training, and skills in ways that will support Auburn University in its move toward sustainability, are encouraged to apply.

Interns will be involved in a variety of individual and team projects, and are expected to work 10 hours per week when classes are in session.

Specifically, we are looking for interns who can help us in one or more of the following three areas:

• Content Creation: graphic design, writing, behavior-change campaigns
• Communications and Outreach: social media, student/employee engagement, and event planning and promotion
• Policy and Research: assisting in the development of strategic sustainability initiatives, both in the office and across campus

In applying specific skills, interns will:

• be part of a team to cultivate and spread an ethic and practice of sustainability

• take a leadership role in sustainability projects on campus,
• serve as a representative for the Office of Sustainability,
• help with office support duties,
• attend a weekly intern meeting, and
• have opportunities to attend sustainability conferences and other events.

Internships are open to students from any academic discipline, who will have sophomore, junior, or senior standing. Candidates must be self-motivated, team-oriented, collaborative, and capable of independent work.

If you’re interested, please apply by sending electronic copies of the following to sustain@auburn.edu:

1. transcript (unofficial copy is fine)
2. resumé, including name and contact info for at least one on-campus reference
3. a brief statement of interest and description of your relevant experience
4. evidence of skills and proficiency in at least one of the areas of need identified above

Application deadline is 5:00 pm, Friday, March 10th

For questions, please feel free to contact our office.

Read More

Applications Open for 2017 Faculty Sustainability Workshop and Awards

Post Contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

Is this the year for you?

An invitation to the Summer 2017 Fall Line Project and Faculty Awards

“Green Curriculum, Green Campus, Green City”

APPLICATION DEADLINE: 31 JANUARY 2017

Faculty participants in the 2015 Fall Line Sustainability Workshop
Faculty participants in the 2015 Fall Line Sustainability Workshop

Faculty are invited to enhance your teaching and engagement with environmental and social issues by participating in the 8th year of the Fall Line Project, May 9-10, 2017. The Fall Line Project is modeled after a program that has drawn national attention for its innovative approach to curricular change, and it has been an intellectually stimulating and collegial experience for Auburn faculty from diverse academic units across campus. To date, over 100 faculty from 30 departments on campus have participated in this workshop.

Skeptics, environmentalists, and those in between have found their various perspectives welcomed and enriched by the dialogue and the project activities.

Are you thinking about developing a new course or new modules in an existing course? How about incorporating environmental or social sustainability issues?

This workshop will explore how we can meaningfully integrate sustainability – broadly defined – into our classrooms. Though we start by taking a close look at Auburn and the larger Eastern Alabama region, we invite participants to engage in local/global comparisons. Alumni from previous workshops will facilitate and catalyze discussion of a green curriculum and its integration and role in the broader community.

Participants will receive an award of $500 upon successful completion of a new or revised syllabus, and will join in a fieldtrip and discussions that will offer opportunities to extend research and teaching horizons across disciplines, and create new networks with fellow colleagues. For further information and examples of past syllabi, see the workshop website.

Preference for participation will be given to instructors who plan to revise or develop a course that will be taught during the 2017-18 academic year. The sustainability content of the revised course must be such that it is potentially eligible for inclusion as an elective for the Minor in Sustainability Studies.

Fall Line Project participants agree to:
(1) Read some materials prior to the workshop
(2) Participate in the 2-day workshop, May 9-10, 2017
(3) Prepare a revised or new course syllabus and submit it in August
(4) Report back to the group during follow-up in the 2017-18 academic year

To apply, submit the application form.

Please send completed application forms to:
Dr. Nanette Chadwick
Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

Read More

Guide Available for Sustainability Courses Offered in Spring

Post contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

As we do around the middle of each semester, Academic Sustainability Programs has produced a guide to sustainability courses offered at Auburn for Spring Semester 2017. This guide can be used by students as you get ready to complete your spring registration this month, and by faculty to peruse the variety of course offerings as you consider new courses to develop.

Students in "Introduction to Sustainability" course check out the muscadine vines.
Students in “Introduction to Sustainability” course check out the muscadine vines.

Our spring list includes all of the courses that can be used toward the Minor in Sustainability Studies. These courses also can be taken by students on campus who are not pursuing the minor, but who would like to learn more about sustainability-related topics. In particular, the Introduction to Sustainability course (SUST 2000) can be taken by students from all majors, and used as a Social Sciences course in your core curriculum.

To help with your course planning, we list the times that each course is offered, the instructor, and their contact information. We also include in our list some courses that have not been formally approved for the minor, but which are acceptable as substitutes for approved minor electives.

Our guide contains a second list that shows the pattern of sustainability course offerings over the past few years, so that you can do more long-range planning and see which semesters each course tends to be offered (spring, summer, and/or fall), to help you plan beyond just this spring.

To download our these new course lists, visit our program’s NEWS webpage.

And, feel free to peruse other pages on our website, to learn more about the minor and our other programs. As always, feel free to contact me if any questions.

Happy Course Planning!

 

Read More

Cuba: The Great Sustainability Experiment

Post contributed by Kaitlin Robb, Office of Sustainability Intern

When I decided to study abroad, I wanted to go somewhere unique. I’ve always dreamt of visiting Greece or Italy, mostly because of the food, but I knew I had one chance to study abroad and needed to choose wisely. When I heard about the Honors College trip to Cuba, I was instantly intrigued; this was the kind of trip I had been looking for. With tensions between the two countries loosening, this was a rare chance to see Cuba before the United States could influence it. I signed up for the trip before the fear of studying abroad could change my mind.

Our trip instructor, Dr. Tiffany Sippial, spent a semester teaching our group about Cuba before our two-week trip in May 2016. We could each choose a topic to study and present on, as well as investigate while overseas. With my sustainability minor and passion, I decided to research Cuba’s sustainability. Cuba is known as the “great sustainability experiment.” Their complicated history means they spent a lot of time cut off from the rest of the world (due mostly to the U.S. trade embargo). It was necessary to use sustainable farming and building practices in order to adapt. After the embargo took effect, Cuba became reliant on the Soviet Union (USSR). They exported sugar from their vast plantations and imported oil in return. When the USSR collapsed, the sugar was useless, as they needed agricultural land to feed their people. Without pesticides from the Soviet Union, they needed to use organic farming methods. The loss of oil forced them to conserve energy, if only because they did not have access to more. In fact, in the 1990s, the government replaced all the incandescent light bulbs in the country with CFLs to deal with energy shortages. I was excited to see this great experiment, and when it came time to board the plane in Miami, I was less afraid than I thought I would be, and ready to experience the uniqueness of Cuba.

Photo collage of Cuba's many rich experiences: local farm life; baseball; classic American cars; and historical buildings in Havanna (clockwise from top left).
Cuba held many rich experiences: sustainable farm in Varadero; Cienfuegos baseball stadium; classic American cars on the streets of Havanna; and historical buildings at the Old Havanna UNESCO Heritage Site (clockwise from top left).

Every experience I had in Cuba ended up being once-in-a-lifetime. We hiked all over Cuba, visiting protected areas across the country. The resourcefulness of the Cubans stood out to me, and was demonstrated when we went hiking in the Escambray Mountains. The steps of the path were actually made of recycled air conditioning units; nothing went to waste there. Additionally, the natural beauty of Cuba was something to admire. There was so much undeveloped coastline and diverse ecosystems. We went for a hike in the Sendero Enigma de Las Rocas and our guide could pick up every bird sound, stopping to identify it for us and answer its call.

In fact, the people provided the best experiences in Cuba. We visited the Cienfuegos baseball stadium, and they were so happy that we purchased some memorabilia they let us on the field to meet the players during their practice. In Trinidad, we visited a pottery shop where one family had been making pottery for 500 years. The grandfather invited us to use his pottery wheel, gently placing his hands on ours to share his techniques, even though he spoke no English.

One of my favorite experiences turned out to be visiting a sustainable farm outside of Varadero. Water there ran under the pig pen to collect the waste into a vat to convert into biofuel, which in turn fueled the farm. The small farm needed to save on energy, and came up with this idea out of necessity. They grew organic pineapple and coconut as well, and my favorite dessert came from this farm: a coconut and sugar-water dish made from coconuts grown right on property. This great example demonstrated how pure resourcefulness in Cuba manifested as sustainability.

Photo of Kaitlin Robb in a hotel in La Moka.
I was very excited to visit La Moka and see the famous lobby built around this tree.

We also visited La Moka, an amazing example of community-based ecotourism. La Moka is a hotel that was built without cutting down a single tree. In fact, a large tree comes right through the middle of the lobby. I talked with a few locals, who are happy due to the high employment rates and the collectiveness of the community. The hotel blends seamlessly with the community, as the government even polled the residents to see if they would be okay with a new hotel being built.

It was really the people that taught me about life in Cuba. We stayed in casas, essentially bed and breakfasts, with generous families that made us eggs every morning. We had two Cuban guides for our 11 students, as well as two Cuban drivers who didn’t speak English, but still shared their culture through means like music. These people talked candidly with us about the pros and cons of living in a communist country, from having free healthcare and education to not being able to start their own business or even download music. This is a trade-off in Cuba. Castro protects a lot of the land for the environment, and there aren’t a lot of tall, industrial buildings, but there is a lack of housing, almost no internet, and limited resources.

In a 2006 World Wildlife Fund report, Cuba was the only country in the world to meet the guidelines for sustainable development; meaning they meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. My experience in Cuba in some ways backs this up. They are incredibly resourceful, have low energy usage, and have a lot of natural, protected areas. However, they also have very limited access to the Internet, arguably the greatest tool for free speech. They have far too little housing, and with an average monthly income of $30, free education doesn’t matter when they can’t afford to travel to school. Therefore, perhaps meeting the criteria for sustainable development does not a sustainable country make. However, the experiences I had in Cuba, the beautiful ecosystems, and the welcoming people made this the trip of a lifetime, and one I recommend to anyone ready for a trip different than anything you’ve ever experienced before.

If you’re interested in joining the Honors College for the 2017 Study Abroad to Cuba, email Ken Thomas.

Read More

Faculty from Over 20 Departments Attend Annual Faculty Sustainability Mixer

Post contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

Photo of Academic Sustainability Table Card: Teaching, Learning, Research, Faculty DevelopmentAcademic Sustainability Programs hosted the annual Faculty Sustainability Mixer on January 27, at Acre Restaurant, a farm-to-table venue within walking distance from campus. A mix of over 30 new and veteran faculty members attended, from a diverse group of 21 departments dispersed among 10 Colleges or related academic units on campus. The mixer provided an opportunity for faculty who are interested or active in teaching and scholarship about sustainability, to interact in an informal setting, and make connections among disciplines. Ideas for new courses were discussed, to connect environmental and social issues, and names were collected for participation in the next biennial Sustainability in the Curriculum workshop set for May 2017. Professors also discussed the interests and backgrounds of students in their sustainability-focussed courses, as well as how to incorporate new cross-disciplinary issues and speakers in their teaching programs. Participants signed up to receive the campus-wide monthly Sustainability Digest produced by the Office of Sustainability.

If you are a faculty member who is interested in information about our awards and workshop programs for faculty to enhance the sustainability content of your teaching or research, if you would like to advertise your course to our email list of sustainability students, etc., please feel free to contact Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

Read More