Sustainability Daily Practice
Part I: This is a semester-long (or quarter) ongoing assignment where students commit to making a meaningful change in some aspect of their personal behavior or habit that makes a contribution to environmental sustainability. For example, a student might choose to give up driving for the semester, become vegetarian, eat organic, eliminate packaging, cut water or electricity use, take a daily (or weekly) eco-sabbatical, etc. The Daily Practice should be achievable and challenging, and something that can be tracked or quantified. It should also be something that the student does on a daily or weekly basis with conscious reflection or mindfulness—a practice in the true sense of the word. At the end of the semester, students write a reflection about the activity and calculate or discuss the overall impact.
Part: II Students revisit their Daily Practice assignment reflection at the end of their college career to assess if their chosen Daily Practice was maintained or added to, or more importantly, if it translated into larger, collective action, such as political or community engagement.
This assignment is used to assess our Environmental Studies departmental outcome of "A desire to take personal action in pursuit of a sustainable future for the planet." This departmental outcome assessment takes place in the senior capstone course, where students reflect on their Daily Practice from Environmental Studies 101. They complete the following assignment:
Reflect back on your Daily Practice from 101. What was it? Did you maintain it, modify it, add to it, or drop it? Why or why not? Are they any other personal actions you have taken on behalf of the environment as a direct result of your Environmental Studies course work, beyond the expected course requirements? In addition to lifestyle changes, other personal actions might include: civic engagement, leadership roles, community action or involvement, volunteer or internship commitments. Please be specific and elaborate on actions you've taken and why.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Students post their results on white board using the chart below:
Tons of CO2
We follow up with classroom discussion that explores the differences in individual results. This includes a discussion about why one zip code would differ from another and the less apparent impacts such as food, consumer goods, and trash. The difference between the US average and world average also prompts discussion.Week Two: Students complete the no-impact experiment, which asks students to take a "one week carbon cleanse" by focusing on a particular source of CO2 emissions each day of the week and reducing that source, such as transportation, food, energy, trash, etc. Note: It's easier to register for this as individuals rather than as an institution.
Week Three: By now, students should have a basic understanding of their ecological footprint and some ideas of how to lessen it for a more sustainable lifestyle. Students submit a brief (1-2 paragraphs) proposal for their Daily Practice with a plan for tracking/reflecting/quantifying their practice. Once the instructor has approved their proposal, the students are ready to begin.
Weeks Four-Fourteen: Students conduct their daily (or weekly) practice.
Week Fifteen: Students read Derick Jensen's "Forget Shorter Showers" https://orionmagazine.org/article/forget-shorter-showers/ and discuss his ideas and how it relates to their Daily Practice. The students then write a 700-1000 word refection on their daily practice, including an overview of their quantitative or qualitative results. The reflection is fairly open ended, but the students should address what they did, any challenges they faced, how it applies to the overall course concepts, and if their thoughts on how this may (or may not) contribute to a developing ecological consciousness.
Part II: At the conclusion of their college career, students receive their reflection essay from Part I and are asked to revisit it to see if they continued their practice or added to it. More importantly, we ask if how their environmental studies coursework has translated into taking personal and collective action in their daily life. Daily Practice Assessment Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 13kB Jul7 17)