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Not just another course about sustainability!

Dr Sarah Speight, from The University of Nottingham, talks about the free online course ‘Sustainability, Society and You’ which starts on on 6 January.

Sustainability, society and you


If you ask six of your friends or family to tell you what ‘sustainability’ means, you would probably get six different answers. Some of us might say it’s about saving the planet or protecting the environment. Others might focus on basic human behaviours and say that sustainability is about recycling and reducing waste. None of these answers would be ‘wrong’ but none of them would capture the complexity and richness that is hidden within the one word.  Those of us who work daily with the ‘S’ word have stopped trying to agree a definition – instead our focus is upon those shared values that enable us to work effectively together for a greater good.

For the team behind this course, sustainability is about society, culture and politics as well as about the economy and the environment – and it is also about the ways in which we learn as well as what we learn.

For me, there are three elements of the course design that demonstrate its sustainability credentials.

First, much of our content comes from open educational resources written by a range of experts both at Nottingham and other universities. We share the best that is out there already rather than duplicating effort.

Secondly, you will see that our introductory videos are all filmed in and around a house on campus – a deliberate ploy to help us relate sustainability to everyday lives and individual choices as well as global issues (have a look at our 26 second timelapse video of our film set up).

And thirdly, we try to balance practical activities such as measuring our water footprints and auditing our domestic waste with challenging discussions. Topics of debate range from our ethical obligations to future generations we will never meet, to sustainability and our mental health, as well as the impact of culture on our attitudes towards sustainability.  We’re not looking for wrong or right answers, but we are looking for insights and inspiration. How would you respond to these questions:

If your food habits are part of your language and identity, what do they say about you? (week 3)

Should our priority be to make cheap food available or make healthy food affordable? (week 5)

Does the internet help or hinder us in the journey towards sustainability? (week 6)

If you want to get started, you can already access some of the key resources that we use in the course from the FutureLearn course page: /courses/sustainability-society-and-you

Go to the recommended background reading and click on the link to download some of our free ebooks.

You can also enjoy our advent calendar blog:

This includes blogs from the MOOC team and tips for how to get the most out of the course.

So, if you’re excited about this course then sign up here now and why not get your friends to join in with you.

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