Online course in Nature & Environment

Unleash Your Potential: Sustainable Futures

Learn about the sustainability challenges of the modern world, and make a positive contribution to society.

  • Duration 4 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $44 Find out more

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 online 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 the sustainability challenges the modern world is facing, and gain the skills to play a part in solving them.

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsWe 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 secondsWe 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 secondsWhoever 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.

What topics will you cover?

  • Happiness and Purpose, and their links to Sustainable Development.
  • Responsibility, Purpose and Foresight in response to Sustainability challenges.
  • How different individuals and organisations take different roles, and work together, to tackle sustainability challenges, explored through a number of case studies.
  • Making a difference at the local and regional level: Case studies in Food Waste, Energy and Homelessness.
  • Making a difference at the global level: Case studies in Microplastics, Industrial Greenhouse Gas emissions and Sustainable Tourism.
  • Understanding the challenges and obstacles those ‘making a difference’ face, and how they find support.
  • Approaches to personal self reflection on the path to ‘make a difference.’

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 14 Oct 2019

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 aimed at anyone interested in sustainability in a broad sense, but may be of particular interest to students who are looking to develop their transferable skills for the workplace and general day-to-day life.

Who will you learn with?

Aisling Tierney

Aisling Tierney

Research Associate at the University of Bristol.
Researcher in Archaeology (historical, material culture, ancient Greek).
Teaching Associate and Lecturer (archaeology, anthropology, sustainability).

Chris Preist

Chris Preist

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

Eleni Michalopoulou

Eleni Michalopoulou

Currently a PhD student in the department of Chemistry in Bristol University. My research interests include a variety of topics such as conservation, sustainability, marine and atmospheric sciences

Who developed the course?

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.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 6 weeks


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  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$239 $179 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
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  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.
Available until 31 October 2019. T&Cs apply.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: