As interest in, and the imperative for, teaching about sustainability in higher education grows, instructors across all disciplines are looking for resources and support. However, efforts to integrate sustainability into higher education go beyond traditional classroom learning to include campus operations and creating a university population able to think and act sustainably.
At Arizona State University (ASU), we have undertaken a project to support instructors and staff to teach about and take action for sustainability in order to help the university meet its sustainability goals. We have developed an Interventions Curriculum to serve as a sustainability-oriented professional development opportunity. The curriculum focuses on how to design and implement behavior change interventions that promote more sustainable consumption behaviors on campus.
The curriculum originally emerged from a workshop course at ASU led by Daniel Fischer and Jordan King in which students collaborated with campus stakeholders to design interventions. The students developed intervention projects in four areas: reducing food waste, increasing plant-based meal choices, promoting the use of reusable cups, and encouraging composting. After the mid-semester disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the course shifted to developing guides for implementing the interventions at a later date.
Funded by a grant from the ASU Sustainability Initiatives Revolving Fund (SIRF), several student interns were hired after the semester to translate the guides and course resources into a training and curriculum resource. In collaboration with Katja Brundiers, Assistant Clinical Professor in the School of Sustainability and the College of Global Futures, the curriculum was then adopted as a part of another SIRF grant funding sustainability-related professional development for instructors and staff at ASU.
Seeking to make the curriculum accessible and actionable, it was designed to be adaptable across disciplines and contexts. The curriculum provides resources for instructors to teach students about designing behavior change interventions, while also offering support to campus sustainability staff on how to develop them.
The curriculum is divided into four modules that guide learners through the process of implementing a behavior change intervention to promote sustainable consumption on campus. The modules are: Prepare, Design, Evaluate, and Project Management & Stakeholder Engagement.
Each module contains readings and resources on relevant theories and practical considerations, examples that draw from the experiences of the students in the workshop course, activities that support learners to begin developing their own interventions, and insights from students and campus stakeholders on how to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the process. At the end, learners will be able to understand how to support students or colleagues in the intervention design and implementation process, and be able to adjust the content to fit their course or context.
The Interventions Curriculum represents a strategy for creating a more sustainable campus through both individual learning and collective action. While other efforts in education, research, outreach, and operations are necessary to achieve this goal, projects like this that target synergies across institutional levels and areas can serve as a key driver in meeting sustainability goals at universities and beyond.