Sustainability Studio

Don’t just learn about sustainability – be engaged in it, here and now.

Our Sustainability Studio course (ENVIR 480) develops students as change agents for environmental sustainability at the University of Washington. In Sustainability Studio, students partner with faculty and staff in applied, campus-based projects. Topics change every quarter, reflecting student interest and campus partnership opportunities. The course instructor provides students with regular mentoring and advising.

Experiential Learning

Get out of the classroom and onto the UW campus.

Sustainability Studio engages students in three experiential learning steps: experience, reflect, apply.


Students learn about the specific sustainability topic, hear from campus and community experts, and engage in relevant field-based activities. In this stage, we build on what students already know and feel, to develop a more sophisticated collective understanding of campus sustainability and the specific topic. Sometimes we also include personal experiments, such as committing to a personal week of zero waste.


At this stage, the focus is on sharing and processing. Students reflect on their reactions and observations, sometimes in a journal or essay form, and process their thoughts via class discussion and analysis. Students then share these reflections with the broader community, via a memo, newspaper op-ed, or blog post.


The course culminates in a final community presentation.

After reflecting on the topic, students propose innovative and flexible solutions (in the shape of applied projects). They get feedback on those solutions from expert guest critics, project partners and clients, classmates, and faculty. Past projects have included case studies, pilot projects, experiments, research, data analysis, development of communication materials, and more. As part of their project-based work, students create professional deliverables that contribute to UW sustainability and gain new skills and experiences relevant to a career path in sustainability work.

The instructor for the 2016-2017 academic year is Sara Brostrom. Contact Sara for questions about this class at

Autumn 2017 Topic: Green Event Planning

Past Topics


Socially Responsible Purchasing

ENVIR 480 Fall 2016 presentations flyerTopics covered in this class included: improving supplier diversity at UW, designing a sustainability movement via a buy local project, evaluating green logos and first steps to becoming a “Good Dawg.”


Greening Healthcare

ENVIR 480 Presentation PosterTopics covered in this class included ways in which a hospital can be made more sustainable: food, energy, community redesign, electronic waste, greenwashing, healing environments, physical movement.





Visit the ENVIR 480 Sustainability Studio blog to read about student experiences in this class.


Green Purchasing

Sustainability Studio class presentations
Topics from student presentations re: Green Purchasing as part of the final deliverable.

“After this class, I now think a lot more about where a product comes from and what it is made of. Before, it seemed clear to me if an item was sustainable or not – it was black or white. But now I have to think: is this product made from recyclable materials? Is it compostable or biodegradable? What chemicals are they made from? How bad are those chemicals? Does it have any third party environmental certifications?” –Madi Keeley

“We looked at so many different aspects that I’d never considered when discussing green products and green purchasing. Some of the most fascinating things to me was when we looked into human behavior and how social norms, peer pressure, and the way something looks – like its packaging – can so strongly dictate how someone chooses to engage with green purchasing.” –Tessarae Mercer

“Since taking a class on the subject this quarter, the exact meaning of sustainability has been running through my brain. It means rallying behind a cause for better business practices such as fair labor and a clean working environment. It mean educating students on how to reduce their footprint and rewarding them for doing so and for teaching people safer and healthier practices that seem cumbersome in the short run, but down the line will be a huge benefit to society.” –Josephine Strauss



A student team infographic on the life cycle of a water bottle
Ryan Cun
A student team infographic on the life cycle of a water bottle