Log In

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.76
Liaison Trina Innes
Submission Date Oct. 10, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

University of Alberta
ER-5: Sustainability Course Identification

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Naomi Krogman
Academic Director of the Office of Sustainability
Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Has the institution developed a definition of sustainability in the curriculum?:

A copy of the institution's definition of sustainability in the curriculum?:

Sustainability in the curriculum was defined by the Office of Sustainability's Academic Advisory Committee (OSAAC) as course content and pedagogies that support the working definition of sustainability at the University of Alberta. This working definition was also developed by OSAAC. Members of OSAAC include:

- Academic Director, Office of Sustainability (Chair) – ex officio
- Vice Provost Academic
- Director of the Office of Sustainability – ex officio
- Decanal appointment
- Selected individuals from diverse constituencies with expertise as well as an established reputation and passion for the area of sustainability (not to exceed 8 members, with a minimum of 6 faculty members)
- Graduate student liaison
- Undergraduate student liaison


Sustainability is a broad concept that includes interlinking dimensions of social justice, environmental health and responsibility, inclusive economic conditions, social equity, cultural vitality, and creative problem-solving. Sustainability is a dynamic process that recognizes, promotes, and protects thriving natural and human systems that tend toward equity and/or renewability. Sustainability involves future-oriented decision-making processes to preserve land, water, air, wildlife, economic production and consumption, resources, recreational opportunities, and the ecological and social systems of which these are a part. Sustainability addresses historical, current, and future pathways to peace in the prevention of war and violence and recognizes that stewardship of the ecological, economic, and social systems upon which humans rely requires the opportunity for people to feel secure and flourish.

The Office of Sustainability Academic Advisory Committee also developed 12 criteria to identify sustainability in research or in the curriculum:

1) Sustainability as a concept: The history, politics, culture, and science of ideas of sustainability.

2) Natural limits and ecosystem maintenance: The relationship between human population and lifestyle in relation to the finite capacity of natural ecosystems (including the global system) to provide for the needs of living things. Involves monitoring natural ecosystems to establish baseline information and assess ecosystem health.

3) Business and economics: Re-shaping market conditions to address "market failures" and to provide incentives for businesses, economic, and social systems to better maintain the integrity of ecosystems and the well-being of living things.

4) Agricultural productivity: Fosters soil and water health and produces safe and healthy food.

5) Science, engineering and technology: The social, economic, and environmental effects or sustainability solutions derived from basic science, engineering, and technology.

6) Governance, social equity, and capacity: Legal or social factors or reforms that support behavioural shifts necessary to encourage or enable individuals and societies to live in ways compatible with maintaining the long-term integrity of ecosystems, and to promote social equity, and justice.

7) Sustainability discourse: The framing and discussion of environmental, economic, or social sustainability in media, politics, and everyday life.

8) Culture, religion, and ethics: How culture, religion, and ethics – from consumerism to environmental stewardship – shape human behaviour in regard to environmental, economic, and social justice, equity, or integrity.

9) Planning and design: Theoretical and applied work in environmental planning and design that promotes the integrity of the environment, or social and economic equity or justice.

10) Peace, security and well-being: Addresses pathways to peace, supports nurturing personal and familial relationships, and promotes adequate access to clean water, nutrition, health care and education.

11) Sustainability science: Science that specifically attempts to build interdisciplinary perspectives from the themes and related academic disciplines listed above to promote human-environmental balance.

12) Other emerging fields and topics relevant to sustainability. Justification will be given on a form used to evaluate the courses.

Has the institution identified its sustainability-focused and sustainability-related course offerings?:

A brief description of the methodology the institution followed to complete the inventory:

Twelve criteria for identifying sustainability in research or in the curriculum were used to identify courses that were sustainability-focused or sustainability-related. These sustainability criteria are listed under the working definition of sustainability.

Sustainability-focused courses concentrate on the concept of sustainability, including its social, economic, and environmental dimensions, or examine an issue or topic using sustainability as a lens. To be sustainability-focused, course content must include at least 3 of the 12 sustainability criteria.

Sustainability-related courses incorporate sustainability as a distinct course component or module or concentrate on a single sustainability principle or issue. Sustainability-related courses must include at least 1 of the 12 sustainability criteria.

Department contacts were asked to forward the working definition of sustainability and criteria for identifying sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses to all department instructors. The instructors were asked to consider the criteria and to self-nominate courses offered within the past three academic years (from the fall term in 2011 to the summer term in 2014) that fit the criteria for sustainability-focused or sustainability-related courses. Instructors were asked to send copies of their syllabi or provide a brief description of the course topics. If it was not clear how the course fit the criteria for sustainability-focused or sustainability-related courses, the instructors were asked to provide clarification.

Information was also collected from the University of Alberta Calendar, department websites, and department contacts to identify additional courses offered within the past three academic years that met the criteria for sustainability-focused or sustainability-related courses. When course syllabi were not available online, department contacts or instructors were asked to provide copies. If syllabi were still not available, calendar descriptions were used to identify the courses as sustainability-focused, sustainability-related or not sustainability-related.

A course was only included in the inventory of sustainability courses if one of the following conditions were met:

1) After reviewing the working definition of sustainability and criteria for identifying sustainability-focused or sustainability-related courses, the course instructor identified the course as being sustainability-focused or sustainability-related.

2) The course description in the University of Alberta Calendar met the criteria for sustainability-related or sustainability-focused courses.

3) The learning outcomes, objectives or topics described in the course syllabus met the criteria for sustainability-related or sustainability-focused courses.

Does the institution make its sustainability course inventory publicly available online?:

The website URL where the sustainability course inventory is posted:

The list of sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses posted on the Office of Sustainability website is not identical to the list of courses used for the count of courses in ER-6 and ER-7 in the STARS report.

The courses listed in ER-6 and ER-7 were offered between the fall term in 2011 and the summer term in 2014, but some of these courses will not be offered in the future. These courses were not included in the posted list, since it will not benefit students to list courses that are no longer available.

Additionally, other courses were not offered between 2011 and 2014 but they will be offered in the future. Although they could not be counted in ER-6 and ER-7, they are included in the posted list of courses so that they are accessible to interested students.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.