Students doing field work

Why Choose a Sustainability Certificate?

Perhaps the best reason for pursuing a sustainability certificate is a personal interest in learning practical skills to make a difference in the world — in your life, in your job, and in your community. Working toward a certificate offers students the opportunity to pursue interests that complement their major(s). For example, the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability encourages students to consider multiple perspectives. In doing so, this certificate provides a breadth of perspective highly applicable to complex problems, such as those we face in our communities, in our workplaces, and in our personal lives.

The Nelson Institute also offers a major and another certificate:

Environmental Studies Major
Environmental Studies Certificate

How to Get in

How to Declare

Students interested in declaring the sustainability certificate can email or request a declaration appointment. Information about declaring the certificate can be found at undergraduate advising.

Students who earn a sustainability certificate may not earn the environmental studies certificate or the certificate in engineering for energy sustainability.


  • A 2.00 GPA in all coursework that counts toward the certificate
  • 15 credits of coursework, including:
    • at least 2 credits from each of the four main categories below
    • 1 credit in ENVIR ST 398 Independent Study: Sustainability Community Engagement for a sustainability-related community service project or 2 credits in ENVIR ST 317 Community Environmental Scholars Program Seminar
  • Courses taken on a pass/fail basis will not count toward the certificate.

Environmental Dimension

Select minimum of 2 credits2
ENVIR ST/​ATM OCN/​GEOSCI  102 Climate and Climate Change3
ENVIR ST/​GEOSCI  106 Environmental Geology3
LAND ARC 106 3
PHYSICS 115 Energy and Climate3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  120 Introduction to the Earth System3
ENVIR ST/​ILS  126 Principles of Environmental Science4
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  127 Physical Systems of the Environment4
SOIL SCI/​ATM OCN  132 Earth's Water: Natural Science and Human Use3
ENVIR ST/​ATM OCN  171 Global Change: Atmospheric Issues and Problems2-3
ENVIR ST/​ILS  255 Introduction to Sustainability Science4
ENVIR ST/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  260 Introductory Ecology3
AGROECOL 303 Agroecological Systems: Working Towards Sustainability3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  309 People, Land and Food: Comparative Study of Agriculture Systems3
CIV ENGR 311 Hydroscience3
SOIL SCI 327 Environmental Monitoring and Soil Characterization for Earth's Critical Zone4
ENVIR ST/​ATM OCN/​GEOG  332 Global Warming: Science and Impacts3
ENVIR ST/​ATM OCN  355 Introduction to Air Quality3
ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  360 Extinction of Species3

Social Dimension

Select minimum of 2 credits2
ENVIR ST 112 Environmental Studies: Social Science Perspectives3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  139 Global Environmental Issues3
C&E SOC/​SOC  140 Introduction to Community and Environmental Sociology4
ENVIR ST/​ENTOM  205 Our Planet, Our Health3
GNS/​ENVIR ST  210 Cultures of Sustainability: Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe3
URB R PL 215 Welcome to Your Urban Future3
C&E SOC/​F&W ECOL/​SOC  248 Environment, Natural Resources, and Society3
ENVIR ST/​AMER IND  306 Indigenous Peoples and the Environment3
GEOG/​ENVIR ST  337 Nature, Power and Society3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  339 Environmental Conservation4
ENVIR ST/​AMER IND/​GEOG  345 Caring for Nature in Native North America3
ENVIR ST 349 Climate Change Governance3
A A E/​AGRONOMY/​NUTR SCI  350 World Hunger and Malnutrition3
PUB AFFR 366 U.S. Environmental Politics and Public Policy3
ECON 370 Economics of Poverty and Inequality3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  439 US Environmental Policy and Regulation3-4
ENVIR ST/​PHILOS  441 Environmental Ethics3-4
ENVIR ST/​SPANISH  445 Culture and the Environment in the Luso-Hispanic World3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  537 Culture and Environment4
SOC/​C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST  540 Sociology of International Development, Environment, and Sustainability3
C&E SOC/​SOC  541 Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice3

Economic Dimension

Select minimum of 2 credits2
A A E/​ENVIR ST  244 The Environment and the Global Economy4
A A E 246 Climate Change Economics and Policy3
GEN BUS 250 Sustainable Capitalism2
M H R 310 Challenges & Solutions in Business Sustainability3
A A E/​ECON/​ENVIR ST  343 Environmental Economics3-4
ECON 370 Economics of Poverty and Inequality3
OTM 370 Sustainable Approaches to System Improvement3
A A E/​INTL ST  373 Globalization, Poverty and Development3
CIV ENGR/​G L E  421 Environmental Sustainability Engineering3
A A E/​ECON  474 Economic Problems of Developing Areas3
A A E/​ECON/​F&W ECOL  531 Natural Resource Economics3
R M I 650 Sustainability, Environmental and Social Risk Management3
REAL EST 651 Green - Sustainable Development3

Systems Dimension

Select minimum of 2 credits2
ENVIR ST 326 Sustainability Tools: Systems Thinking & Life Cycle Assessment3
AGRONOMY 375 Special Topics (Systems Thinking only)1-4
ENVIR ST 402 Special Topics: Social Perspectives in Environmental Studies (Systems Thinking only)1-4
CIV ENGR 494 Civil and Environmental Engineering Decision Making3

Multidimensional and Cross-topics Courses

Additional coursework that may be used to attain 15 credits in the certificate
ENVIR ST/​SOIL SCI  101 Forum on the Environment1-2
ENVIR ST 117 GreenHouse Roots Seminar1
LAND ARC 211 Shaping the Built Environment3
HORT/​PL PATH  261 Sustainable Turfgrass Use and Management2
ED POL 320 Climate Change, Sustainability, and Education3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  333 Green Urbanism3
A A E/​AGRONOMY/​HORT/​PL PATH  367 Introduction to Organic Agriculture: Production, Markets, and Policy3
ENVIR ST/​BSE  367 Renewable Energy Systems3
LAND ARC 373 Mindfulness in Restorative Environments3
CURRIC/​C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST  405 Education for Sustainable Communities3
ENVIR ST 417 Sustainability Science, Technology and Policy1
DY SCI/​AGRONOMY  471 Food Production Systems and Sustainability3
DY SCI/​AN SCI/​FOOD SCI/​SOIL SCI  472 Animal Agriculture and Global Sustainable Development1
CIV ENGR 495 Sustainable Building and Materials3
CIV ENGR 525 Case Studies Exploring Infrastructure Sustainability and Climate Change3
URB R PL 551 Climate Action Planning: Sustainable Transportation3
LAND ARC 563 Designing Sustainable and Resilient Regions4

Certificate Completion Requirement

This undergraduate certificate must be completed concurrently with the student’s undergraduate degree. Students cannot delay degree completion to complete the certificate.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify, critically analyze, and propose solutions to the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability.
  2. Engage in systems thinking and practice so as to address the interrelationships among the three dimensions of sustainability.
  3. Develop the capacity for an engaged life in which theory, practice, and reflection are integrated in the pursuit of a more sustainable world.

Advising and Careers

Nelson Institute students are represented in majors across campus and in most undergraduate schools and colleges. Sustainability certificate students should utilize the career office for their home school as appropriate. All students, not just Letters & Science students, can also benefit from SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science.