Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is an interdisciplinary field that integrates natural and social sciences, humanities, arts and education to address complex environmental problems. It attempts to balance human needs and ecological well-being, viewing humans as embedded within environmental systems.

As a student in the environmental sustainability program, you’ll learn how to understand the complex linkages between social and ecological systems and bring together knowledge from many different perspectives and disciplines. You’ll analyze environmental issues, collect data, connect the local and the global, apply various forms of theory, gain technical and applied skills and work collaboratively with others to find solutions to real-world environmental problems.

Graduate Icon
29%
of environmental sustainability majors in the classes of 2017-2019 were enrolled in grad school within six months of graduation.
Jobs icon
Careers
Top jobs for environmental sustainability majors in the classes of 2017-2019 were in environmental/sustainability management, community/social services and education.
Outcomes

Recent graduates have been admitted to graduate programs in veterinary medicine, environmental policy and management, energy and earth resources, ecology, evolution and behavior, and museum education.

Understanding environmental systems through interdisciplinary research

This program prepares you through a collection of multi-disciplinary courses and a core environmental sustainability course sequence that helps you frame and link those diverse perspectives. In each core course, you’ll practice collaboratively addressing complex environmental problems, gaining increased autonomy and leadership throughout your four years.

Earlham is committed to sustainable living on campus and offers many opportunities for students to participate in environmental activities and initiatives. Learn more about our high sustainability ratings as a college and how we pursue sustainability at Earlham.

Choose a track

Environmental sustainability majors choose one of four tracks to focus their studies: environmental education, climate change, natural resource conservation or environmental culture and justice.

Off-campus study and research

From faculty research on sustainable cities in Europe to our popular semester program in New Zealand, environmental sustainability majors have a variety of options for studying around the world.

Learn about our New Zealand program

Professor and students examining dirt

Our faculty

Because environmental sustainability is an interdisciplinary major, our faculty come from diverse departments, including politics, biology, geology, Japanese studies, outdoor education and English.

Program details

The environmental sustainability major will help you develop an understanding of systems and multi-perspective thinking through both local and global contexts. You’ll gain a critical understanding of environmental issues and gain technical and applied skills relevant to the field—including the use of the scientific method, GIS, statistics and more. Our alumni have gone on to work in conservation, city planning, community services, outdoor education and recreation and more.

As a liberal arts college, Earlham offers multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary majors and minors in which students cultivate deep and specific knowledge and experience. Equally important, the College expects every student to develop broad, general skills and proficiencies across the curriculum.

As part of their general education, students complete six credits in each academic division of the College: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and visual and performing arts. In addition, students meet requirements for first-year courses, analytical reasoning, perspectives on diversity and wellness.

Learn more about general education at Earlham.

To earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability, you’ll complete six courses within the major core and an additional 10 courses within the environmental education track.

Core requirements

Take all of the following courses:

    • ENSU 141 Environment, Society and Sustainability
    • ENSU 151 Environment, Science and Sustainability
    • ENSU 353 Environmental Application
    • ENSU 463 Field Experience
    • ENSU 487 Senior Colloquium
    • ENSU 488 Senior Capstone/Seminar

Environmental education track
This thematic focus provides you with the necessary foundational knowledge in educational theory and methodology combined with practical leadership and skill development to prepare you for work in a variety of outdoor and environmental education contexts. A minor in a natural science is strongly recommended.

Take three of the following four education courses:

    • EDUC 120 Foundations of Education
    • EDUC 248 Theory and Practice (includes a 1-credit practicum)
    • EDUC 211 Outdoor Trip Leadership
    • ENSU/MUSE 315 Engaging Audiences with Outreach and Interpretation

Three of the following education or leadership courses (other courses may be considered by petition):

    • One of the four education courses above, if all four options are taken
    • EDUC/ENSU 210 Outdoor and Environmental Education
    • EDUC 302 Disabilities Studies
    • PSYC 230 Human Development
    • ENSU/PSYC 370 Psychology of Sustainability
    • EDUC/PSYC 373 Moral Education
    • MGMT 211 Leadership: Theory and Practice
    • MGMT 342 Leadership and Dealing with Differences
    • PAGS 343 Conflict Resolution
    • TESO 344 Studies in Language Learning and Teaching

One of the following cultural courses:

    • ENSU/ENG 205 American Literature and Ecology
    • ENSU 323 Environmental Ethics
    • ENSU/REL 345 Eco-spirituality: Global Tradition
    • ENSU/JPNS 376 Power, Society and the Environment in East Asia
    • ENSU/POLS 399 Sustainable Cities in Europe
    • INTD 340 Environmental Issues of New Zealand
    • JPNS/ENST 231 Japanese Culture & the Environment

Three of the following natural science courses, at least two must be above 202:

    • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
    • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity
    • BIOL 346 Vertebrate Zoology
    • BIOL 348 Ornithology
    • BIOL 350 Field Botany
    • BIOL 357 Animal Behavior
    • BIOL 360 Conservation Biology
    • BIOL 362 Insect Biology
    • BIOL 455 Population and Community Ecology
    • CHEM 111 Principles of Chemistry
    • GEOL 201 Earth & the Environment
    • GEOL 202 Meteorology
    • GEOL 314 Interpreting Earth History
    • GEOL 315 Earth Materials
    • GEOL 316 Geochemistry and Environmental Change
    • any GEOL class between 401 and 422

View a full list of environmental sustainability courses and their descriptions.

To earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability, you’ll complete six courses within the major core and an additional 10 courses within the climate change track.

Core requirements

Take all of the following courses:

    • ENSU 141 Environment, Society and Sustainability
    • ENSU 151 Environment, Science and Sustainability
    • ENSU 353 Environmental Application
    • ENSU 463 Field Experience
    • ENSU 487 Senior Colloquium
    • ENSU 488 Senior Capstone/Seminar

Climate change track
This thematic focus provides you with the knowledge and skills needed to understand both the climate and policy systems that allow experts to translate scientific knowledge into governmental action. The collection of courses will prepare future leaders who are capable of crafting realistic alternatives for mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis.

All of the following politics courses:

    • ENSU/POLS 322 Climate Policy OR ENSU/POLS 327 Urban Politics, Policy and Sustainability
    • ECON 103 Introduction to Microeconomics
      • ECON 101 Introduction to Macroeconomics can be substituted with approval of adviser
    • POLS 111 Introduction to Comparative Politics and International Relations OR POLS 121 Introduction to American Politics and Policy

All of the following climate science courses:

    • GEOL 201 Earth and the Environment OR GEOL 202 Meteorology
    • GEOL 316 Geochemistry and Environmental Change
    • GEOL 432 Climate Systems

Two of the following additional science courses:

    • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
    • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity
    • BIOL 360 Conservation Biology
    • BIOL/CS 383 Bioinformatics
    • BIOL 410 Applications of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in Environmental, Ecological and Conservation Sciences OR ENSU 310 Applications of GIS in Social Sciences
    • BIOL 455 Population & Community Ecology

One of the following additional politics or society courses:

    • ENSU/POLS 322 Climate Policy
    • ENSU/POLS 327 Urban Politics, Policy and Sustainability
    • ENSU 326 U.S. Environmental and Natural Resource Policy
    • ENSU/JPNS 376 Power, Society and the Environment in East Asia
    • ENSU/POLS 399 Sustainable Cities in Europe
    • PAGS 240 Global Dynamics and World Peace
    • SOAN 118 Inequalities, Power, and Society

One of the following statistics, mathematics or methods courses, chosen in consultation with your adviser:

    • BIOL 455 Population & Community Ecology
    • BIOL 456 Biostatistics
    • CS 128 Programming and Problem Solving
    • ECON 204 Statistics for Economics
    • MATH 120 Elementary Statistics
    • MATH 180 Calculus A
    • MATH 280 Calculus B
    • POLS 329 Social Science Research Methods
    • PSYC 245 Research Methods and Statistics

View a full list of environmental sustainability courses and their descriptions.

To earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability, you’ll complete six courses within the major core and an additional 10 courses within the environmental resource conservation track.

Core requirements

Take all of the following courses:

    • ENSU 141 Environment, Society and Sustainability
    • ENSU 151 Environment, Science and Sustainability
    • ENSU 353 Environmental Application
    • ENSU 463 Field Experience
    • ENSU 487 Senior Colloquium
    • ENSU 488 Senior Capstone/Seminar

Environmental resource conservation track
This focus examines the distribution, quality, and protection of natural resources. It examines the nature and structure of environments, uses scientific research to explore the ways environmental change occurs, and investigates natural resources as valuable commodities. This focus will prepare you to research human impacts on environmental systems and propose management solutions.

All of the following environmental science courses:

    • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
    • BIOL 360 Conservation Biology
    • BIOL 410 Applications of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in Environmental, Ecological and Conservation Sciences
    • BIOL 455 Population and Community Ecology
    • GEOL 201 Earth and the Environment OR GEOL 202 Meteorology
    • GEOL 315 Earth Materials

One of the following politics and society courses:

    • ENSU/POLS 322 Climate & Energy Policy  OR ENSU/POLS 327 Urban Politics, Policy and Sustainability
    • ENSU 326 U.S. Environmental and Natural Resource Policy
    • ENSU/JPNS 376 Power, Society and the Environment in East Asia
    • POLS 111 Introduction to Comparative Politics and International Relations
    • POLS 121 Introduction to American Politics and Policy

Two of the following upper-level environmental science courses:

    • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity
    • BIOL 344 Restoration Ecology
    • BIOL 346 Vertebrate Zoology
    • BIOL 348 Ornithology
    • BIOL 350 Field Botany
    • BIOL 357 Animal Behavior
    • BIOL 362 Insect Biology
    • BIOL 456 Biostatistics
    • GEOL 314 Earth History
    • GEOL 316 Geochemistry & Environmental Change
    • GEOL 410 Structural Geology
    • GEOL 420 Earth Surface Processes
    • GEOL 430 Ground & Surface Water Hydrology
    • GEOL 431 Soils and Sustainable Agriculture
    • GEOL 432 Climate Systems

One of the following human perspectives courses:

    • ENSU/ENG 205 American Literature and Ecology
    • ENSU 323 Environmental Ethics
    • ENSU/REL 345 Eco-Spirituality: Global Traditions
    • ENSU/PSYC 370 Psychology of Sustainability
    • ENSU/JPNS 376 Political Ecologies of East Asia
    • INTD 340 Cultural Issues of New Zealand
    • MGMT 342 Leadership and Dealing with Differences
    • PAGS/MGMT 343 Conflict Resolution

View a full list of environmental sustainability courses and their descriptions.

To earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability, you’ll complete six courses within the major core and an additional 10 courses within the environmental culture and justice track.

Core requirements

Take all of the following courses:

    • ENSU 141 Environment, Society and Sustainability
    • ENSU 151 Environment, Science and Sustainability
    • ENSU 353 Environmental Application
    • ENSU 463 Field Experience
    • ENSU 487 Senior Colloquium
    • ENSU 488 Senior Capstone/Seminar

Environmental culture and justice track
This track focuses on a humanistic exploration of the environment. It explores the ways we conceptualize and represent the environment as well as relations between environment and cultural world views, values, life experiences, identity, and social structures. It includes significant attention to issues of social and environmental justice.

All of the following courses:

    • ENSU/ENG 205 American Literature and Ecology
    • SOAN 115 Anthropology in a Global Age OR SOAN 118 Inequalities, Power and Society
    • ENSU 323 Environmental Ethics

One of the following cultural courses:

    • ENSU/JPNS 231 Japanese Culture & the Environment
    • ENSU/JPNS 349 Japanimals
    • ENSU/JPNS 376 Power, Society and the Environment in East Asia

One of the following theory courses:

    • PAGS/PHIL 330 Postcolonial Theory
    • POLS 362 Modern Political Theory
    • POLS 364 Power, Politics, Theory
    • SOAN 217 Foundations in Social Thought
    • SOAN 341 Contemporary Social Thought

Three additional courses, either environmental sustainability courses from the two categories above, or courses listed below:

    • ENSU/POLS 322 Climate Policy OR ENSU/POLS 327 Urban Politics, Policy and Sustainability
    • ENSU/REL 345 Eco-Spirituality: Global Traditions
    • ENSU/PHIL 363 Bioethics
    • ENSU/PSYC 370 Psychology of Sustainability
    • INTD 340 Cultural Issues of New Zealand
    • PAGS 240 Global Dynamics and World Peace
    • PAGS/PHIL 315 Marxism
    • PAGS/MGMT 343 Conflict Resolution
    • PAGS/ECON 345 Urban Political Economy
    • SOAN 115 Anthropology in a Global Age OR SOAN 118 Inequalities, Power, and Society, if both courses are taken

One of the following methods courses:

    • BIOL 410 Applications of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in Environmental, Ecological, and Conservation Sciences
    • ENSU 310 Applications of GIS in Social Sciences
    • ECON 103 Introduction to Microeconomics
    • ECON 204 Statistics for Economics
    • MATH 120 Elementary Statistics
    • POLS 329 Social Science Research Methods
    • PSYC 245 Research Methods and Statistics
    • SOAN 345 Social Research Methods

One of the following introductory natural science courses:

    • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
    • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity
    • GEOL 201 Earth & the Environment
    • GEOL 202 Meteorology

View a full list of environmental sustainability courses and their descriptions.

Yes! For a minor in environmental sustainability, you must take:

  • ENSU 141 Environment, Society and Sustainability
  • ENSU 151 Environment, Science and Sustainability
  • ENSU 353: Environmental Application
  • Three additional courses that count toward the major from two different divisions (natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and visual and performing arts). At least one of these must be an environmental sustainability course.

Earlham also offers applied minors in sustainability and management and sustainable agriculture.

View a full list of environmental sustainability courses and their descriptions.

There are several ways to get involved in co-curricular environmental activities and initiatives at Earlham, such as the Student Sustainability Corps, composting or the Sustainability Progress Committee.

In addition, you can learn more about the College’s comprehensive commitment to sustainability and high sustainability ratings and find a summary of various environment-related information and opportunities about sustainability at Earlham, including information about Earlham’s Center for Environmental Leadership, our outstanding Outdoor Education and Summer Wilderness programs and Miller Farm, where students practice sustainable agriculture on campus.

Environmental sustainability majors are encouraged to participate in off-campus study, faculty-student research experiences and internships. Recent majors have studied in New Zealand, done research in Iceland and other European countries and interned at the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, Conserve National Forests, San Andres Education Programs and Cope Environmental Center.

Learn more about available programs via our Center for Global and Career Education.

If you’re interested in a career in environmental sustainability, this is the major for you. You will develop strong research and technical skills that make you an excellent candidate for both graduate school programs and careers in environmental fields.

Next steps