ENVS 399: Sustainability Practicum, Spring 2020

Spring Semester 2020
MWF 1:10-2:00,  in Science Center 207
Additional time for small group meetings will be required.

Instructor: Dr. John Krygier
Office: Science Center 206   |

Sustainability & Environment at OWU Blog:
Class working blog:

Updates: 4/26/2020: updated for Coronavirus

Course Description: As the concept of sustainability grows in importance, so does the need for tangible, applied efforts to realize sustainability as a daily practice for individuals and organizations (businesses, governments, universities, etc.). ENVS 399: Sustainability Practicum puts sustainability principles into practice on the OWU campus and in Delaware, Ohio. The course consists of selected readings on sustainability, building on coursework in ENVS 110 and/or BOMI 233, and group efforts and collaborations (with campus organizations, regional organizations, OWU’s Buildings & Grounds, OWU’s food service, Residential Life and other individuals and groups) to realize the goals of our campus sustainability plan. Students in the course work with our campus Sustainability Task Force to evaluate and modify our campus sustainability plan as needed. Prerequisites: ENVS 110 or BOMI 233, junior/senior status, or instructor consent.

Core course ideas and readings are described and linked below. Please create an annotated bibliography document for the course readings and place it in a shared ENVS 399 folder (ENVS 399 Your Last Name; shared with instructor). Approximately one-page for each of the nine readings (include in your course documentation). Create an initial draft for each source when assigned, and revisit and revise at the end of the semester, adding thoughts and assessing the reading from your perspective at the end of the semester.

Annotated bibliography components:

  • Cite the source with an appropriate citation style. Pick one and stick to it. Information on citation styles.
  • Summarize: What are the main arguments? What is the point of this document? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? Information on paraphrasing sources.
  • Assess: After summarizing a source, evaluate it. Is it a useful source? Is it useful conceptually, practically, or both? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source? Information on evaluating resources.
  • Reflect: Once you’ve summarized and assessed a source, ask how it fits into the course, both practically and conceptually. Was this source helpful? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

What exactly is sustainability?

The term “sustainability” has been applied so broadly that its meaning, some argue, is compromised. How do you put sustainability (however defined) into practice? It is easy to talk in platitudes: “the University should use more alternative energy sources,” “there should be more composting, recycling, or local organic foods on campus,” “OWU should have a solar array.” It is much harder to put such ideas into practice – but there are specialists – sustainability coordinators – who, given their training and institutional investments, make sustainability work.

Reading 1: The Death of Environmentalism, M. Shellenberger & T. Nordhaus (2009)

Reading 2: Sustainability, from

Reading 3: OWU Sustainability Plan (2017)

Reading 4: Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation (downloadable PDF, Open Source Textbook Initiative)

Supplemental Reading 1: Margaret Robertson, Sustainability: Principles and Practice (Routledge, 2nd ed. 2017). A traditional overview of sustainability in a textbook format.

How do you “do” sustainability?

At OWU we have a strong, long-term interest in sustainability among faculty, staff, and students. We don’t have a sustainability coordinator, comprehensive knowledge of sustainability methods, nor much money to work with. This is, however, OK: the situation at OWU provides us with challenges and opportunities. Can a group of students, staff, and faculty move beyond platitudes and take sustainability on campus forward in a systematic manner? We combine environmental and sustainability principles (gained in this course, and other courses) to assist us with this “theory-to-practice” effort and we will, through practice, shape the concepts and theories of sustainability. ENVS 399 is structured for students to develop conceptual ideas based on their practical experiences. Work in previous versions of this course has led to the publication of a book chapter called “Scrappy Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University” by Emily Howald, ‘18 and John Krygier. Future courses will work towards similar conceptual, practice-into-theory outcomes.

Reading 5: “’Scrappy’ Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University,” by Emily Howald & John Krygier, from Sustainable Cities and Communities Design Handbook, edited by Woodrow W. Clark III (2017)

The following sources have a large amount of background on previous OWU sustainability efforts and can be consulted for resources and ideas.

Reading 6: Geography 360 Environmental Geography Projects. Projects in the class since 2009 have often focused upon campus sustainability projects. Links to many previous project reports.

Reading 7: Special Report: OWU Sustainability. During the Fall semester of 2014 Journalism student Spencer Hickey reviewed the state of Sustainability on OWU’s campus, reviewing its history and current status, interviewing students, staff, and faculty. (this now-historical document should be saved from its current off-campus site).

Reading 8: Recommendations of the President’s Task Force on Sustainability – Spring, 2009 & Supplemental Web Materials. Another now historical document with a useful background on the state of sustainability at OWU a decade ago. (this now-historical document should be saved from its current off-campus site).

Reading 9: Sustainability Region NSF Grant Proposal and Map/PosterA proposed Sustainability Region Project given good reviews by NSF but not funded because OWU had not made a suitable contribution to the effort.

The Social Psychology of Sustainability

While focused on climate change, Per Espen Stoknes What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action has many insights into the overall human reaction to sustainability, with practical ideas for how to move forward when political and personal obstacles to sustainability seem insurmountable. We read this book in Geog 360. For this class, take a look at another shorter source:

Reading 10: a practical primer on the psychology of sustainability in The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior.

The Ethics and Political Economy of Sustainability

Some of the worst moral and ethical problems of environmentalists are documented in Pascal Bruckner’s The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings. Bruckner describes a preachy, judgemental barrage of catastrophe and pessimism emanating from environmentalists that is, in the end, often inhumane if not outright anti-human. In its stead, he argues, we need to develop a humane, democratic, and generous ecology focused on solving earth’s environmental problems without demeaning or punishing humans. This book is read in Geog 360.

Reading 11: A shorter article by Bruckner: “Against Environmental Panic.”

Reading 12:How the Rich Plan to Rule a Burning Planet” (or pdf here). A sort of counter-balance to Bruckner’s perspective, where the climate “crisis,” according to the author, is going just as planned.

Revisiting Scrappy Sustainability

Initial work building on the “Scrappy Sustainability” book chapter was completed in the spring of 2018, using input and ideas from students enrolled in the course. Also entitled “Scrappy Sustainability,” the document below was updated again last fall, and takes the book chapter a step forward and links many of the ideas and the philosophy of this practicum together.

Reading 13: Scrappy Sustainability – Fall 2019

Environmental Values

Ultimately, as we head into getting stuff done in this course, it is important to assess your personal environmental values. Values underlie beliefs and behaviors – good or bad (or somewhere in between). Values are also one of the core objectives of an Ohio Wesleyan education:

To place education in the context of values. Understanding of themselves, appreciation of others, the responsibilities of citizenship in a free society. Sensitivity to private and public value issues, intellectual honesty, concern for all religious and ethical issues.

I put together resources for assessing your environmental values for ENVS 100.1, a new course most of you have not taken. Thus, review the materials at the link below and prepare a statement of your personal environmental values.

Reading 14: Assessing Your Environmental Values

More stuff to read and review: As the course progresses, we will read a few more things – practical, conceptual, whatever. Please feel free to suggest appropriate materials.

The Philosophy of this Course: Scrappy Sustainability

Students, staff, and faculty figure out how to make sustainability happen on campus with no full-time staff and few funds. Such efforts lead to broader conceptual and practical insights into the field of sustainability.

Course Learning Objectives

Initiative: One of the more important things I learned in college (eventually) was to take initiative and develop my ability to actively engage in courses and collaborate with my peers. Students in this course will be expected to take initiative, and explain how their initiative has helped to move applied sustainability forward on campus.

Leadership: Leadership is more than being in charge. In this course, I expect students (individually or in small groups) to lead efforts to develop or expand current sustainability initiatives on campus. This requires that students understand the context of the initiative, clearly define a plan for their work, effectively collaborate and communicate their efforts, take responsibility in scheduling and completing required work, effectively work with people (staff, faculty, students) outside of the course, and, ultimately, complete the project by the end of the semester.

Trust: An important aspect of work-life is trust: that you can be responsible and organized and depended upon to take on a task, manage it, and complete it in a timely manner without others needing to be guiding and watching your every move. Students in this course will be trusted to use the class time in an appropriate manner, for meetings, field-work, etc. We will have some required group meetings, but the goal is that each student can be trusted to do what needs to be done to complete the work in the class.

Tenaciousness: The “philosophy” of this course is “scrappy sustainability,” which in essence means the capacity to be pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate. In a context like ours at OWU (no sustainability coordinator, no sustainability experts, few funds for sustainability efforts) we need to be all of those things to get anything done on campus. Successful sustainability efforts (May Move Out, reusable food containers, recycling, etc.) have taken an inordinate amount of effort to start and keep going, with many obstacles and plenty of reasons for the weak-of-heart to give up and back away. Students in the course will be expected to be able to keep at their projects regardless of impediments and succeed with their goals.

Pragmatism: The core of this practicum is the idea of pragmatism. Being pragmatic is not just being practical, however. Pragmatism consists of the mindset (and philosophy) that there is something important about what works (as opposed to what ideally should be). Knowledge is the outcome of a problem-solving process. You may strongly believe that we should “ban the bottle” (bottled water) on campus; however, this is a sort of specific ideology that, in practice, does not really work wherever it is imposed. Instead, the idea is to come up with a plan that works, and there is something important with that plan because it does work. For example, as we install more filtration stations on campus and promote their use, we see a drop in the purchasing of bottled water. Students in this course should expect to develop a pragmatic approach to sustainability projects on campus, and this requires critical thinking, the ability to move beyond ideological absolutes and focus on what works.

Integrative Learning: All of the above course learning goals grow from years of working with students at OWU (and elsewhere). These goals are part of what can be called integrative learning: “Integrative learning is an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus.” “Fostering students’ abilities to integrate learning—across courses, over time, and between campus and community life—is one of the most important goals and challenges for higher education. Indeed, integrative experiences often occur as learners address real-world problems, unscripted and sufficiently broad, to require multiple areas of knowledge and multiple modes of inquiry, offering multiple solutions and benefiting from multiple perspectives. Developing students’ capacities for integrative learning is central to personal success, social responsibility, and civic engagement in today’s global society.” (AACU Integrative Learning Value Rubric).

Communicating specific course goals and assessing student efforts in ENVS 399 can be accomplished by using the rubric that is part of the ACCU’s Integrative Learning materials. See below, under Evaluation


The instructor will evaluate student efforts based on the following four categories of work. Each will be assessed in part by the completion of the work on time as well as attendance. The content itself will be assessed using the Integrative Learning Value Rubric (below) which OWU’s Academic Policy Committee thought would be a useful addition to the course. Students will assess their work at the end of the semester, using, as a reference, the Value Rubric.

Students will complete the following:

  1. Review Integrative Learning Value Rubric (below) and discuss it in class. This rubric should be used by students to plan and implement work in ENVS 399 and will be used by the instructor to assess progress in the course. 2-page description of the rubric with comments due at the end of 2nd week (10% of grade)
  2. Annotated bibliography of course readings + review and revision (due end of the semester): 15% of grade
  3. Course project proposal: by end of 3rd week of course. (15% of grade)
  4. Starting Point Document, Documentation & Final Reflection Document: Based on readings that inform the practical aspects of the course, and the larger, conceptual issues synthesized, over the semester, with your practical experiences working on actual sustainability projects. (total of 30% of grade)

Creation of a Starting Point Document: We will read, take notes and document reactions and thoughts, discuss and create a summary document synthesizing these readings and our reaction to them over the first few weeks of class, while we also start planning our practical work for the semester. This “starting point” documents where we stand at the beginning of the course. It is baseline documentation of our understanding of the practical and conceptual aspects of sustainability.

Documentation: Each student will keep a log of ideas, thoughts, reactions, etc. related to the Starting Point Document throughout the semester. This log is vital in revisiting and reflecting on the Starting Point Document near the end of the semester when a Final Reflection document will be drafted. I suggest your documentation be in a shared Google doc, or potentially a blog. Create a folder in your Google account called ENVS 399 and share it with me. Then put your documentation doc. in that folder.

Final Reflection Document: Near the end of the semester we will revisit the Starting Point Document along with our log of notes and prepare a Final Reflection Document. Students will document how this literature helped, or did not help them think about what they did in the class. They will create a Final Reflection Document that will be read by students who take this course the next time it’s offered. Just like the Scrappy Sustainability book chapter. That document will include references to the reading material, but also contain new knowledge, practical and conceptual. These outcomes will be presented by you, the students in ENVS 399, at the spring student research symposium, and shaped into one or (possibly) a series of more conceptual papers, viable for presentation at conferences or publication.

  1. Project Reports & Presentation: by the end of the semester. (30% of grade) For each report compile the following:
  • work and research completed
  • key contacts
  • organize the ENVS 399 Spring 2020 shared folder for the individual project, make sure the Project Report will help future students take over this project; make sure all materials created (posters, artwork for stickers, etc.) are also in the shared folder
  • your assessment of the project and what was completed this semester, and recommendations for the future
  • Presentation of your efforts during Green Week, 2018 (Student Research Symposium, or Green Week-related event)

Course & Personal Assessment: about 3 pages

One page or so: your thoughts on the course, its structure, and the way we worked out the goals (projects). Did the wheels come off? Or not? Too much flexibility? Or did the flexible approach work? Do you think our effort will affect sustainability efforts on campus? Or are you more pessimistic? Document 3 things that worked well, and 3 that could use some work and/or ideas for what the course should focus on. Your suggestions for next year are very much appreciated.

Two pages or so: Describe what you did (specifically) and your role in the class (compared to other students in the class). Review the rather broad and impossibly deep course learning objectives (above) and reflect on the role each played in the course, in general, but with attention to your own personal efforts. Describe if you believe you achieved these learning goals in this course. If so, describe specifically how you put these goals into practice in the course. If not, describe why you did not meet the learning goals. Cast aspersions! Was it the format of the class, personal failings, etc.? How do you think this course could have better prepared you to reach unreached learning objectives?

Integrative Learning Value Rubric: PDF here or click on the table below:

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