Take Individual Course Units

Work toward your Sustainability Certificate by taking individual course units from the Core Concepts and Advanced Concepts in Sustainability online courses. 

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Core Concepts in Sustainability

Course Description

This self-paced, 3-hour online course is designed to equip students with a strong foundational knowledge of sustainability and the balance between environmental, social, and economic systems. The materials provide students with a thorough introduction to sustainability topics. The course incorporates hands-on activities, online modules, discussion forums, and dynamic instruction methods.

Certificates and Credit

This course is a requirement to earn the Sustainability Professional Certificate. It is also a prerequisite to earn the Sustainability Fellow Certificate.


$100 USD  Add To Cart Smlr


Click here to download the course outline PDF. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Define sustainability and describe the environmental, economic, and social aspects of the triple bottom line.
  • Differentiate between renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, and identify the key components of the green economy.
  • Understand the role of the U.S. and European industrial revolutions on the human ecological footprint and the ways in which developing nations are following suit.
  • Identify the multiple contributors to human’s ecological footprint, including agriculture, energy, food, poverty, and the built environment.

Instructional Resources

The 3 hours of directed instruction is accessed online through any internet connection. The course consists of three sequential units which contain all of the instructional resources participants will need to complete the course. These include a variety of instructional formats, such as video, animations, presentations, guided activities, and readings.

Course Outline

Humanity's Ecological Footprint

Essential Question

How has human impact on ecosystems changed over time through the early stages of civilization development to today’s industrialized and growing societies?

The Big Idea

Over the course of time, humanity’s impact on the earth has grown from small regional effects to large-scale disruptions. At present, there are very significant challenges we face as a global civilization: climate change, species extinction, deforestation, resource depletion, and widespread economic inequality. By 2050, Earth will be host to between 9 and 10 billion humans. With a population of this size and with growing per capita resource use, humanity has an enormous and increasing impact on the ecological systems on which it depends. This unit explores the concept of ecological footprint: a measure of human resource use and pollution, compared with the Earth’s capacity to regenerate, called biocapacity. When we use ecological footprints to compare different modes of living, it can point the way towards a sustainable society.

Topics Covered:

  • The Ecological Footprint Concept 
  • Emergence of Modern Humans and the Development of Agriculture 
  • Population Growth and Carrying Capacity 
  • The Industrial Revolution 
  • Variations in Ecological Footprint 
  • Climate Change and its Causes 
  • Climate Change Effects 
  • Carbon Footprints

Primary Sustainability Issues: Energy, Food, Water and Pollution

Essential Question

What are the primary ways in which impact measurements are useful tools and what are the long-term effects of human ecological footprints?

The Big Idea

Several sustainability issues stand out for their vital importance to humanity: energy, food, water, and toxic pollution. A great deal of the day-to-day work of sustainability is focusing on making these focus areas work better for people and fit into the ecological systems of the planet. Transforming them is presenting enormous challenges, but people around the world are becoming increasingly engaged with this important task.

This unit covers the following topics:

  • The Central Role of Energy 
  • Sustainable Agriculture 
  • Sustainable Water Systems 
  • Industrial Pollution and Toxins