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 collaborate in small groups, partnering with a client for the duration of the quarter to work on community-based sustainability projects. Clients often include campus faculty and staff, as well as local nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or businesses. The course topic changes every quarter, reflecting student interest and partnership opportunities. The course instructor provides students with regular mentoring and advising.

Experiential Learning

Sustainability Studio engages students in three experiential learning steps: experience, reflection, and application.


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 (as applied projects). They receive 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 sustainability and gain new skills and experiences relevant to a career path in sustainability work.

The course topic varies each quarter

PastĀ Topics

Cross-Sector Communication & Collaboration in Sustainability

The Autumn 2020 quarter topic of Sustainability Studio was Cross-Sector Communication & Collaboration in Sustainability.




Food Security & Sustainability

The Spring 2020 quarter topic of Sustainability Studio was Food Security & Sustainability.





Community Engagement & Collaboration in Sustainability

The Winter 2020 quarter topic of Sustainability Studio was Community Engagement & Collaboration in Sustainability.



Policy Tools to Address Sustainability

The Autumn 2019 quarter topic of Sustainability Studio was Policy Tools to Address Sustainability. With a
particular focus on addressing sustainability issues using policy tools, the students learned strategies to execute both a policy analysis and program evaluation