• University of Bristol

Unleash Your Potential: Sustainable Futures

Make a positive contribution to society as you learn how to overcome sustainability challenges whilst maintaining your wellbeing.

16,799 enrolled on this course

Hands holding the world

Find out how to deal with world sustainability issues

United Nations (UN) countries have adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

On this four-week course, you’ll learn about these UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the different roles people can play in creating a sustainable future.

You’ll get an introduction to sustainability challenges and gain the skills to play a part in solving them.

The course will also help you learn how to protect and enhance your wellbeing to ensure you can change the world for the better.

Understand individual, local, and global roles in sustainability challenges

You’ll learn how to make a positive contribution to society on an individual, local, and global scale to create a fulfilling sustainable future for everyone.

Exploring what makes you happy and gives you a sense of purpose, you’ll look at the many ways you can make a difference. You’ll also look at what can be done on a local level as you investigate case studies relating to food, energy, and homelessness.

Next, you’ll explore global challenges such as microplastics, greenhouse gases, and industry contributors to climate change.

Develop your mental resilience when facing the climate crisis

Facing the climate crisis can be daunting. On this course, you’ll be encouraged to consider your own mental health and wellbeing. You will explore case studies to see how others have built up their mental resilience while striving to build a better world.

Learn from the experts at the University of Bristol

Throughout the course, you’ll hear stories from inspirational people who are making changes worldwide.

With these motivational case studies, and the guidance of the academics at the University of Bristol, you’ll have the tools you need to influence the world around you with a resilient mindset.

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds We all want to live happy and fulfilling lives, and we have a duty care towards humanity and to our environment, both on a local and a global scale. However, this course isn’t just a lesson about global warming, or just about recycling, nor is it meant to be a guilt trip. This course was made to help you think about what motivates you. In what ways do you enjoy working? What makes you happy? What gives you a sense of purpose? And in what ways can you make a contribution? This course will also explore the many ways in which people can change the world around them, both in small and in large ways.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds We will hear stories from people who are doing exactly this, from promoting positive mental health and happy communities to tackling local homelessness and working with large corporations to reduce microplastics, and in doing so inspire you to learn more or even become involved yourself. But even if this isn’t what you’re into, our exploration of motivation, purpose, and ways of influencing the world around us will be useful, whatever you choose to do.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 seconds Whoever you are, life has its ups and downs, both personally and professionally, and our aim throughout our four weeks together is to motivate and inspire you, to look after your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you, whilst trying to live life with a greater purpose and make a difference.


  • Week 1

    The Individual

    • Introduction to the course

      This activity will introduce you to this course about creating a sustainable future, which is one of three courses in the Unleash Your Potential programme from the University of Bristol.

    • Happiness and purpose

      The steps in this activity will encourage you to think about what 'happiness' and 'purpose' means in relation to your own life. What gives us satisfaction? What makes us happy?

    • What makes your (work) life satisfying?

      Now, you're encouraged to think about happiness and purpose in a work context. Work is something a lot of us do for a large proportion of our lives. Are we satisfied?

    • Week 1 round up

      In this activity, we'll be rounding up the week and thinking about what you've learned so far. The Sustainable Development Goals will also be introduced in preparation for the rest of the course.

  • Week 2

    The Local

    • Introduction to Week 2

      During this activity, you'll be introduced to the concepts being covered in Week 2. We'll also be looking at the diversity of roles an individual can play within a local system.

    • Food

      Food waste and food poverty are issues that affect people in almost every city and town. Here, we look at the problem of food waste, and introduce you to three case studies from our local area.

    • Energy

      Now, we'll think about energy. We focus on case studies from our local area to help us understand this challenge, as well the different approaches being explored to meet it.

    • Homelessness

      Now, you'll be shown case studies about homelessness, looking at the roles and responsibilities people take on a local level to tackle this challenge.

    • Week 2 round up

      In this activity, we'll be rounding up the week and thinking about what you've learned so far. You'll have the chance to think about how these local issues affect things in your area.

  • Week 3

    The Global

    • Introduction to Week 3

      During this activity, you'll be introduced to the concepts being covered in Week 3. We'll also be looking at the diversity of roles an individual can play in a global system.

    • Microplastics

      Plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our oceans. Here, we look at three case studies of people working with the problem of plastic waste in very different ways.

    • Greenhouse gases, industry and climate change

      Now, you'll be shown case studies about greenhouse gases, industry and climate change. Read the article, then watch the case studies, looking at the roles and responsibilities held by those who appear in the videos.

    • Sustainable Development in Albania

      In this activity, you'll learn about Albania's links to Bristol and what's being done there to protect the coastline. This section is dedicated to just one case study; keep an eye out for different roles and responsibilities.

    • Week 3 round up

      In this short activity, you'll be rounding up the week. Think about what you've learned this week; are there any particular roles and responsibilities you can see yourself taking on in future?

  • Week 4

    A Future World

    • Introduction to Week 4

      This week, you'll hear a variety of different people talk about the challenges and successes they've come across in their lives, and have the opportunity to take what you've learned and think about it in terms of your own life.

    • Making a difference

      In this activity, you'll hear how a range of people have made a difference in the world. You'll have the opportunity to complete a short, reflective piece of writing about how you can make a difference.

    • Our journeys

      Now, we'll think about life journeys. You'll have another opportunity to complete a short, reflective piece of writing about the path you can see yourself taking, which you can combine with your other reflective piece.

    • Life is messy

      In this activity we'll be looking at the challenges we all face in life. Life rarely runs smoothly, so here we consider what happens when things don't go to plan.

    • Next steps

      In this activity, you'll have the chance to discuss everything you've learned over the past four weeks, as well as look forward and think about the next steps you'll take towards a sustainable future.

    • Week 4 round up

      This short activity brings the course to a close. We will reflect on the week's discussions, and wish you luck for your next steps!

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify diverse ways to achieving a sense of purpose.
  • Explore different approaches to making an impact at a local scale.
  • Explore different approaches to making an impact at a global scale.
  • Reflect on an individual's role in a big system.
  • Identify ways to make a difference.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in sustainability.

It may be of particular interest to you if you are looking to develop transferable skills for the workplace or even for general day-to-day life.

Who will you learn with?

Lecturer at the University of Bristol

Visiting Fellow, Cultural Heritage Institute, Royal Agriculture University

Research: archaeology (Albania), sustainability, higher education pedagogy


Chris is Academic Head of Sustainability, and Professor of Sustainability and Computer Systems in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bristol.

Eleni is a Research Associate with the Stockholm Environment Institute of the University of York and is a member of the Cabot Institute and the Department of Geography of the University of Bristol.

Who developed the course?

University of Bristol

University of Bristol is one of the leading institutions among the UK’s Russell Group of universities and is recognised for its research and academic excellence.


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  • Access to this course
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  • Discuss your learning in comments
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Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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