MUM established the first four-year Sustainable Living degree program in 2003, and is a leader in the field.
This new academic discipline is now being pioneered at UMLAC and an increasing number of other institutions around the world. Because it is so new as a discipline there are no broadly accepted guidelines on what constitutes an education in Sustainable Living. In contrast, more traditional disciplines like engineering,
business, biology, philosophy, anthropology, etc. have curriculum standards and specialties that are widely
accepted by institutions offering these programs.
This 4 year degree prepares students for careers in sustainable community development and environmental
coordination, or further study and research. Students interested in receiving a B.A. in Sustainable living must
complete at least 56 credits worth of courses from our program. An SL minor provides students with a practical foundation for understanding the principles and practices of environmental design for communities. Any student can receive a minor in Sustainable Living by completing at least five core courses and one
elective from our program.
Hands-on Projects during and after class that make abstract concepts learned in class concrete. For example, in addition to learning the theory of how wind generators work, our students have designed and built three generations of wind generators from scratch. We’ve worked to build a regional food system. And UMLAC faculty and students have played key roles in the Mayor Ed Malloy’s strategic plan for sustainability in Fairfield.
One Course at a time– The Block System — our students are fully immersed in one course each month, and
then move on to the next course. The block system is immensely popular with our students because they learn more, and it eliminates the stress of taking 4–5 subjects at once.
Internships – Students can earn up to 16 credits of internships that provide on-the-job training. In some cases, internships provide a stipend or cover expenses. We work to maintain relationships for local, regional,
national, and international internship opportunities. Examples include sustainable agriculture, the building
trades, environmental organizations, green business, and many other venues that provide practical experience in selected areas of interest.
Certifications – We offer academic credit for successful completion of professional certifications in sustainability. From time to time we offer certifications as part of our program. Professional certification requirements are constantly changing and our in-program offerings also change as conditions in the broader
ommunity evolve. Certification offerings have included Building Biology and Permaculture Design, as well as
Resnet Energy Rater Training and AutoCADD.
|What our Program Offers||What our Program Doesn’t Offer|
|Personal development of consciousness||Community college style vocational/job training|
|Broad-based understanding of sustainability for communities||An engineering or architecture degree|
|A new worldview grounded in hope, and selfawareness||A conventional environmental science education|
|Redesign for regeneration and renewal||Pollution control training|
|Training for specific (green) jobs or careers through tracks and internships||A guide to increase efficiency and substitution alone|
|Hands-on application of principles, as well as theory||A step-by-step process on how to live in the woods in a self-reliant way (individual self sufficiency)|
|Hands-on workshops for community and homesteading energy and water management||A guide to increase efficiency and substitution alone|
|A living laboratory for the development of creative solutions|
|Training to be a leader in the great enterprise of creating a sustainable future for our world|
Our program aims to give students the breadth of wisdom to be able to make a real difference in their own
lives and the life of society. All students are required to take a set of core courses that cover the full range of Sustainable Living. In addition, students interested in going deeper into one area of sustainability have the option of following an educational track/concentration within a key area of concern to sustainable communities. Each track is comprised of at least four classes, designed to build on each other and give students a greater level of expertise in that particular subject. The tracks are as follows:
The Fundamentals of Sustainability track starts from the awareness that “sustainability” is a concept that is
used differently by different people, institutions, and governments. In fact, it is a normative concept,
meaning that it is based on human definitions of “norms.”
Another way of putting this is that the various definitions of sustainability come from various ways of
answering, “what is it that we are choosing to sustain?” How a person, institution, or government answers
this question depends upon their understanding of equity, ethics, philosophy, and spirituality.
Therefore, the Fundamentals of Sustainability track focuses on these foundational belief structures as a way
of understanding the myriad conceptions of “sustainability” at work in the world today. Perhaps a more
eloquent way of putting it comes from Wendell Berry:
Before going further, we had better ask what is it that we humans need to know. We
need to know many things, of course, and many kinds of things. But let us be merely practical for the time
being and say that we need to know who we are, where we are, and what we must do to live. These
questions do not refer to discreet categories of knowledge. We are not likely to be able to answer one of
them without answering the other two. And all three must be well answered before we can answer well a
further practical question that is now pressing urgently upon us: How can we work without doing irreparable
damage to the world and its creatures, including ourselves? Or: How can we live without destroying the
sources of our life? (“The Way of Ignorance” p. 59)
The conventional agriculture that we’re so familiar with produces high yields, but at the cost of an unsustainable impact on human health, the environment, the economy, and the social fabric. Surprisingly,
even organic agriculture is usually not fully sustainable. Enter the concept of the living soil, as developed by
Dr. Elaine Ingham, one of the world’s leading soil biology experts. Basically, it holds that with the proper
balance of soil bacteria, protozoa, fungi, nematodes, and microarthropods, any soil in the world can provide
all the nutrition required for a healthy crop.
This track teaches students how to prepare the compost and compost tea required to restore that nutrition
to soils, first through hands-on class work and then fieldwork on a practicing farm.
The energy track is for students who want to go into greater depth about energy and sustainability.
Currently, Energy 101 is offered every year, and Energy 201-203 are offered in two year rotations. Good
basic math skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, working with decimals and
fractions, basic trigonometric relation of angles, areas, and volumes, basic algebra, and simple statistics like
averages and mean, are needed for deep understanding and success in these courses. The suggested sequence of courses for the energy track and descriptions of each course are listed below:
There are ample technical solutions available to transform society to sustainability. But all too often there are
blocks to implementation. In the Policy and Social Change track students seek to understand how those blocks are rooted in human consciousness and psychology. Students study the strategies that can be adopted to shift society’s mindsets and what policies large organizations, especially corporations and governments, can adopt to create a sustainable future. In the process, issues of food and water security, energy and climate stabilization, and many others are addressed from local to international levels.
Here the main courses of the track. The core course is offered every year. The others are offered at least
every other year.
The agricultural track is for students interested in working to create food systems that nourish and sustain
communities. Students learn about sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture and going beyond organic to
food production that is regenerative – an agriculture that renews the land, people and communities.
Students learn about the living soil, taught by world-renowned soil biologist Elaine Ingham.
Season extension is another important subject for temperate climates; students learn about greenhouses,
passive solar hoop-houses, low tunnels and other ways to grow food earlier and later in the season. A farm
planning course enables student to create a business plan for an economically sustainable farm. Practical
hands-on courses and internships on organic farms give students real life experience.
Possible job opportunities for graduates of this track include: organic farmer, farm manager or assistant
farm manager, community garden manager, Farm to School coordinator, Buy Fresh Buy Local coordinator,
School Garden Program Manager.
Everything we humans create or affect using physical materials—buildings, roads, bridges and landscapes,
from urban sprawl to industrialized agriculture—can be considered part of the built environment. Gaining a
holistic view of the environmental and social impacts of our constructed world is an important part of
The track’s primary focus is on buildings. In their constituent materials, their construction, and in the course
of their useful life, buildings are responsible for a large percentage of all energy and resource use. Yet, even
in the face of increasing energy costs and the depletion of global resources, most buildings built today are
constructed to technological standards set fifty years ago.
The four courses in this track are designed to give students practical experience in the newest methods,
materials and design philosophies of “green” construction—how to build energy efficient, healthy, affordable
homes and other structures to support the vision of sustainable community living.