University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Sustainability Education

Sustainability Studies Minor students are required to complete 9 credits from electives.

Choosing Electives

Because “sustainability” covers a broad set of ideas and the Sustainability Studies Minor is an interdisciplinary program, there are many options for completing the Minor in a way that suits your academic and professional interests. While all students in the Minor must complete the two core courses (SUST 3003 and SUST 4004), there is a lot of flexibility in choosing electives.

When choosing classes for the Minor, keep in mind that while it is required that students take electives from different sub-categories, we also encourage students, if they wish, to focus on a particular thematic issue as the examples show below.

Several Alternate Options are also available for completing your elective courses including taking the Sustainability Internship and Topics courses, studying abroad, Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), petitioning for relevant courses, and directed study opportunities.

Examples of Themes for the Minor

Clean Energy
  • BBE 4733: Renewable Energy Technologies (3.0 cr) [ENV] Design and Technology
  • ECON 3611: Environmental Economics (3.0 cr) Economics and Policy
  • ESCI 3005: Earth Resources (3.0 cr) Biophysical Sciences
Global Development
  • ESPM 3251: Natural Resources in Sustainable International Development (3.0 cr) [GP] Economics and Policy
  • HIST 3452: African Conservation Histories (3.0 cr) Social Science and Humanities
  • GEOG 3401: Geography of Environmental Systems and Global Change (4.0 cr) [ENV] Biophysical Science
Land & Agriculture
  • AGRO 3203W: Environment, Global Food Production, and the Citizen (3.0 cr) [GP, WI] Biophysical Sciences
  • SOC 3613W: Food, Culture, and Society (3.0 cr) [SOCS, GP, WI] Social Sciences and Humanities
  • LA 3004: Regional Landscape Planning (3.0 cr) Design and Technology

Elective Categories

Choose 3 courses from the following categories, but not more than one from each.

Economics & Policy

AFEE 3361 World Development Problems (3 credits)

AFEE 5361 World Development Problems (3 credits)

APEC/ECON 3611 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (3 credits)

APEC 5611 Economic Aspects of Environmental Management (3.0 credits)

CE 5212/PA 5232 Transportation Policy, Planning, and Deployment (4 credits)

CE 5214 Transportation and Systems Analysis (3 credits)

EEB/FR 5146 Science and Policy of Global Environmental Change (3 credits)

ESPM 3241W Natural Resources and Environmental Policy: History, Creation, and Implementation (3 credits)

ESPM 3245 Sustainable Land Use and Planning Policy (3 credits)

ESPM/LAS 3251 Natural Resources in Sustainable International Development (3 credits)

ESPM 3261 Economics and Natural Resource Management (4 credits)

ESPM 3602/5602 Regulations and Corporate Environmental Management (3 credits)

ESPM 3603 Environmental Life Cycle Analysis (3 credits)

ESPM 3604 Environmental Management: Systems and Strategy (3 credits)

ESPM 4242 Methods for Environmental and Natural Resource Policy Analysis (3 credits)

FNRM 5146 – Science and Policy of Global Environmental Change (3.0 cr)

MGMT 5019 Business, the Natural Environment and the Global Economy (2 credits)

Social Science & Humanities

ANTH 3041 Ecological Anthropology (3 credits)

ANTH 4053 Economy, Culture, and Critique (3 credits)

ENGL 3501 Public Discourse: Coming to Terms with the Environment (3 credits)

ESPM 3011W Ethics in Natural Resources (3 credits)

GEOG 3379/GLOS 3303 Environment and Development in the Third World (3 credits)

HIST 3452 African Conservation Histories (3 credits)

HSCI 3244 History of Ecology and Environmentalism (3 credits)

ID 3592 Environmental Sustainability: Dimensions of Environmental Change (4 credits)

PHIL 3301 Environmental Ethics (4 credits)

SOC 3613W Food, Culture, and Society (3 credits)

SOC 4305 Society and the Environment: A Growing Conflict (3 credits)

SOC 4311 Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature (3 credits)

Biophysical Sciences

AGRO/ANSC 3203W Environment, Global Food Production, and the Citizen (3 credits)

AGRO/ENT 5321 Ecology of Agricultural Systems (3 credits)

BIOL 3407/3408W Ecology (3 credits)

CHEM 4601 Green Chemistry (3 credits)

EEB 3001 Ecology and Society (3 credits)

EEB 4609W Ecosystem Ecology (3 credits)

ESPM 3108 Ecology of Managed Systems (3 credits)

FW 4102 Principles of Conservation Biology (3 credits)

ESCI 3005 Earth Resources (3 credits)

ESCI 3402 Science and Politics of Global Warming (3 credits)

GEOG 3401 Geography of Environmental Systems and Global Change (4 credits)

ID 3591 Adaptive Ecosystem Management (4 credits)

FNRM 3101 – Park and Protected Area Tourism (replaced RRM 3101)

Design & Technology

ARCH 4561 Architecture and Ecology (3 credits)

BBE 4733 Renewable Energy Technologies (3 credits)

CE 3501 Environmental Engineering (3 credits)

CE 4561 Solid Hazardous Wastes (3 credits)

CHEN 5551 Survey of Renewable Energy Technologies (3 credits)

ESPM 3601 Sustainable Housing–Community, Environment, and Technology (3 credits)

HSG/DHA 3482 Sustainable Housing–Community, Environment, and Technology (3 credits)

LA 3003 Case Studies in Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design (3 credits)

LA 3004 Regional Landscape Planning (3 credits)

LA 3501 Environmental Design and its Biological and Physical Context (3 credits)

LA 4755/5755 Infrastructure, Natural Systems, and the Space of Inhabited Landscapes (3 credits)

URBS 3751 Understanding the Urban Environment (3 credits)


Available by Petition

You may petition the following courses to count toward the minor by contacting Lauren McCarthy at

PsTL 4216: Mississippi Local, Global: Community-based Approaches to Living with Rivers, Sustainably  (Design and Technology)
This course is shaped by the understanding that challenges which impact local, national, and global communities require innovative solutions that can’t be addressed by any single discipline. We will be concentrating our area of  research on community based approaches to issues along the Mississippi as well as citizen based efforts to address challenges on other global rivers including the Mekong and Ganges.

LA 3514 Making the Mississippi  (Design and Technology)
Through a series of active learning activities and a detailed community service-learning project, students will gain first hand experience with their potential dual roles in public life: as citizens and as planners or designers enjoined by their professional training to undertake a special role in developing the “civic life” of the urban Mississippi. “Civic life,” the becomes understood as both the community-forming activity that takes place in riverfront public spaces, but also as the process by which these spaces are created.

GER 3651/5610 Thinking Environment: Green Culture, Literature, and Global Debate (Social Science and Humanities)
This course (taught in English, with assignments in German for students who know the language) looks at how sustainability became mainstream, proposing that German literature and culture, exploring how literary and non-fiction writing, film, and the arts helped reshape environmental imagination.

BBE 2201 Renewable Energy and the Environment (Biophysical Sciences)
Renewable energy technologies. Environmental, technical, social, and economic challenges/opportunities for each technology. 

Freshman Seminars

COMM 1901 Environmental Communication in England (Social Science and Humanities)
BBE 1943W Green Buildings and Sustainable Communities (Design and Technology)
VPM 1906W Garbage, Government, and Globe (Economics and Policy)

Honors Seminars

HCOL 3508 Our Common Waters: Making Sense of the Great Lakes (Biophysical or Social Sciences and Humanities)
This 3-credit honors class will explore “water” by focusing on the Great Lakes, using a liberal arts approach to emphasize the interdisciplinary aspects of water in nature and society. Students will learn about the chemical, ecological, and geological aspects and challenges of the Great Lakes, in addition to their rich history, their economic drivers, their music, art and cultural contributions, and the laws and policies that that govern them and that have shaped national and international policy. In addition, students will benefit from a mentored research experience that allows them to explore one of these areas in more depth.

HSem 3039H Living with the Mississippi River (Economics and Policy)
This 3-credit seminar gathers students from diverse colleges across the University and engages them with the Mississippi River’s challenges in a way that allows them to produce a body of work that is directly relevant to the work of planning, policy-making, research, and design toward a sustainable Mississippi River. Given projections for population growth and climate change, we will be asking more of the Mississippi than ever before over the coming decades, and our historical approach?to treat it as an engineered body of water completely subject to our short term needs?will not suffice. Working collectively, biological and physical scientists, planners, designers, advocates, and people involved in public interpretation and education must develop a “21st century” approach to living with the urban Mississippi — one that uses the river as a community, environmental, and economic asset without diminishing the river’s key ecological functions upon which we depend. Students in this course will combine knowledge from natural and social sciences with policy, planning, and design frameworks to develop realistic and potentially feasible solutions to river-related challenges posed by community partners.

HSem 3614H Environmental Futures: Foresight for Sustainability (Elective category TBD)
We are living in the “great acceleration,” a time of significant increase in the scope, scale, intensity, and complexity of change and resulting impacts on social-ecological systems. Global indicators of the great acceleration include rapid growth in human populations, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, average global temperatures, use of nitrogenous fertilizers, percent of marine fisheries fully exploited, and species extinctions. Add to these the rapid pace of technological change with the potential for sweeping environmental effects?such as genetic engineering and nanotechnologies?and it is clear that the need for environmental foresight has never been greater. This course will explore alternative futures for a range of global environmental issues from the perspectives of “Futures Studies,” a transdisciplinary field of inquiry that uses a variety of methods to explore possible, plausible, and preferable futures. Futurists have developed an array of useful approaches to explore alternative futures, important insights into the nature of change, and perspectives for thinking creatively and deeply about the future. The 3-credit course will include facilitated discussions, use of futures techniques such as scenario development and the futures wheel, guest speakers, individual papers, and a group project.

The Sustainability Education website is administered by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

The University of Minnesota offers sustainability courses in most of its colleges and campuses around the state. These courses encompass biophysical sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, design, engineering, business, and health. The Sustainability Studies minor is one of several interdisciplinary programs through which such diverse courses come together.