What is sustainability? I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked this question as a Program in the Environment student. I anticipate answering it at the start of each semester in at least one of my PitE classes. Sustainability is an unavoidable topic within my major, but this is not the case across other areas of study. Many of my friends have not encountered the term “sustainability” in their classes at the University, and it is doubtful that they will take a class with content related to sustainability before graduation.
Sustainability has become a popular buzzword on campus, especially after the completion of the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment. But do students truly understand the meaning behind the “Sustainability” tab on the University’s homepage? While PitE is a rapidly growing major and the University currently offers more than 500 courses that incorporate content related to sustainability, many students remain environmentally illiterate.
Though University President Mary Sue Coleman recently announced the creation of a sustainability minor, I was hoping to hear something along the lines of establishing an undergraduate environmental literacy requirement in the near future. The sustainability minor is a step in the right direction, but there must be a push for a University requirement if we want to become an institution known for fostering leaders in sustainability.
It is vital for students to graduate with at least some preliminary understanding of sustainability, which is a concept embedded within environmental education. Fulfilling an environmental literacy requirement should be just as important as completing distribution requirements. Sustainability is a very interdisciplinary subject that is likely to arise in most career fields. Thus, students will be more prepared for the real world with this requirement. Once equipped with a concrete comprehension of sustainability, graduates will be able to sort through the “greenwashing” common in today’s society and become more informed citizens.