Before You Declare

Before declaring a minor in sustainability, please read the following important information. 


Sustainability is the balance of environmental resources, social equity and economic prosperity across the globe and across generations. The GW Sustainability Minor also uses the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations to address issues related to sustainability. 

The Undergraduate Minor in Sustainability prepares students to take on the challenges of developing solutions to pressing environmental, economic, and social justice problems at the local, regional, and global scale. It introduces students to the concepts, principles, and issues that inform the sustainability paradigm. The minor integrates classroom and community-based learning and research in a program that enables students to integrate the the sustainability perspective in their future endeavors.

Students who complete the requirements for a minor in sustainability will be able to do the following:

  • Apply the concepts of sustainability to issues of human welfare and social equity, the environment, and the economy
  • Adapt and apply knowledge, theories, and methods learned to analyze sustainability issues and/or practices
  • Connect and extend basic sustainability concept(s) to a critical problem facing society, using student’s involvement in the issue as the basis for analyzing the challenges and developing and solutions to the problem

The Sustainability Collaborative has identified over 150 undergraduate courses that address one or more of the three main concerns of sustainability: the environment, economic development, and equity or social justice. Each sustainability-related course fulfills one of the three tracks of the minor. To obtain a sustainability-related designation, a course must meet one or more of the following six crtieria:

  • Content related to sustainable development: creating healthy and thriving resource systems for all
  • Content related to environmental issues
  • Content related to social issues that can be applied to sustainable development such as human welfare, social equity issues or social / organizational / behavioral change
  • Content related to economic issues that can be applied to sustainable development
  • Discourse focused on the interconnection of world resources and the human condition from a long-term perspective
  • Content related to policy and communications issues that can be applied to sustainable development

No! The minor is interdisciplinary and open to any undergraduate student from any school across the university. In fact, the minor encourages students to take classes beyond their own school in order to fulfill the minor. 

No. We encourage students from all schools and majors to apply for the minor.  GW strongly believes that understanding sustainability will benefit all students, regardless of their majors.  At GW we also believe that all academic dicsiplines, including the humanities, have roles to play in achieving the goals of sustainable development. A sustainability minor can be applied to a variety of careers, including many in business, non-profits and government jobs.  Finally, we also believe that the minor promotes citizenship and engagement on many of the world’s most critical issues, including biodiversity, human rights, poverty, climate change, and social justice.

There are two required courses for the minor:  the introductory course titled (SUST 1001) and the culminating experience in your junior or senior year (SUST 3097).

The minor is 18 credits:

Intro to Sustainability (3 credits);

Track A: Environment and Earth Systems (3 credits);

Track B: Society and Sustainability (3 credits);

Track C: Policy, Organization and Leadership (3 credits);

one elective from Tracks A,B, or C (3 credits), and; 

the Culminating Experience (3 credits). 

In order to give students a well-rounded experience in sustainability, the minor requires work in three different timensions-- or tracks-- of sustainability. Track A is Environment and Earth Systems; Track B is Society and Sustainability; and Track C is Policy, Organization and Leadership. Students must take at least 3 credits in each track. The three credits required for the elective can be fulfilled by a course from any track.

Students are required to complete a hands-on learning experience, preferably in their senior year. This could be sustainability-related field work, directed research, independent study, an internship, or community service. In addition, students must complete a series of reflective exercises and essays in SUST 3097, the course under which students receive academic credit for their culminating experience. Students must work with the Director of Program Associate of the Sustainability Minor to create their culminating experience, and this must be approved before the end of the add-drop period in the semester they register for SUST 3097.

You can email the Sustainability Minor at [email protected] with questions. 

The office is located at Old Main—1922 F Street NW, Room 411B.   Take the stairs or elevator to Floor 4. Look for signs directing you down the hallway to the Sustainability Collaborative offices. 

The Director of the Sustainability Minor will work with each student individually to design the best possible selection  of courses for the Sustainability minor.  The number of courses “double-counted” towards the minor will vary, depending on the student’s major, interests in sustainability, and course of study. Generally speaking, however, the fewer courses double-counted for the minor, the more value the minor will add to the student's education and record. Students are encouraged to follow a separate course plan for the minor to add value to their education.

Yes! We can work with students of any class and help them design the best possible plan for the Sustainability Minor. We currently have minors declaring from all years. Whether this will work for you will depend on the flexibility of your schedule and whether you are able to find and complete an internship, directed research, or community service in your remaining semesters. 

Schedule an appointment with the Director or Program Associate to discuss your plan of study. Make sure to bring your school’s minor/secondary field form as well as your tentative course plan for the Sustainability minor. After getting the approval and a signature from us, take the form back to your school’s advising office to declare the minor.

Students can use several different GW resources to find internships. Opportunities are highlighted in the weekly message sent out to the Sustainabiliy Minor listserv. If you are not receiving the emails, please email [email protected] to request to be added to the email list. You can also check Handshake (previously GWork) for internships offered on campus as well as off campus.  In addition, the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service can assist in finding an appropriate service organization to work with.  If the right opportunity is available, it is also possible to do your culminating experience abroad; however, this must be pre-approved by the Director of the Sustainability Minor before you go abroad.

Yes. This may include the following process:

  1. You first need to get the course syllabus from your study abroad program approved by the GW department that offers the closest equivalent of that course. (For example, if you were to take a “History of Environmentalism in Australia” course, you would probably need to get this approved by GW's History Department.) 
  2. Second, once a GW department has approved the course, see the Director of the Sustainability Minor before going abroad to confirm that this will be counted towards the Sustainability minor and, if so, towards which track it will be applied.

In the event that the course you are seeking to transfer is a sustainability fieldwork or research course, you can skip Step 1 and take the syllabus directly to Director of the Sustainability Minor for approval. Here is a list of  study abroad options that can count towards the sustainability minor.

Yes. You can apply this towards your culminating experience, if it meets the approval of the Director.

When you are looking up a class in the Schedule of Classes click on "Course Attributes." If it is a sustainability-related course, you will see "SUST: Sustainability Courses." There will also be another attribute, either SMTA, SMTB, or SMTC that tells you if the course fufills Track A, B, or C, respectively, for the sustainability minor. 

Send an email with the course syllabus to the Director and we will follow up directly with the professor and let you know. Our list of sustainability-related courses is updated frequently.  However, this requires the approval of the faculty member teaching the course as well as the approval of the Sustainability Collaborative. 

There are numerous programs at GW related to sustainability. A list of programs is available here. For further questions, email [email protected] to schedule a meeting with a sustainability advisor.