This Fall 2016, I taught the first Introduction to Sustainability course at MMC, which was developed as a result of the introduction of a new Sustainability minor. So in order to give students a real sense of how sustainability can be achieved at the local level, the students each carried out their own independent Service Learning projects.
These projects ranged from quantifying food waste at the MMC cafeteria to recycling solid waste on campus and at a local high school. Each project required the student to present their projects to the class and encouraged them to implement their findings in some form of public educational material.
The Introduction Sustainability course covered a wide range of topics, including human impacts as well as the many possible ways to improve the declining condition of our biosphere. To be ‘sustainable’ involves promoting the preservation of our biosphere, which requires the involvement of a variety of disciplines. Sustainability has gained overwhelming attention in recent years, yet it remains controversial. Across the globe, governments, companies, and citizens have already come to terms with the changes that we have created to our environments and have pledged to ameliorate these impacts by reducing their ecological footprint.
My goal was to give students the opportunity to empower themselves to play an active role in addressing local issues. Their responses during discussions and on exams revealed a heightened sense of concern for the environment and economy and showed a keen understanding that human health is directly connected to the condition of our planet. I feel that each student has developed a stronger sense of awareness and stewardship for their environment and have individually played a part in developing solutions. I can only hope that they continue this mission as future citizens and spread awareness to others.
-Written by Dr. Shanna Hanes, Assistant Professor of Biology