Updated August 29 at 7:42am

‘Sustainability’ a growing area of college study

By Rhonda Miller
PBN Staff Writer

With “Rubbish” the title of an anthropology course at Rhode Island College, it’s the latest sign state colleges are stepping up the focus on sustainability.

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‘Sustainability’ a growing area of college study

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With “Rubbish” the title of an anthropology course at Rhode Island College, it’s the latest sign state colleges are stepping up the focus on sustainability.

“It’s an eye-opening course about the way we dispose of things. We have diminishing space for garbage and that’s where technology comes in,” said RIC Sustainability Coordinator Jim Murphy, who’s held that position since it was created a year ago.

“It’s just one of the courses where we’re making our students aware of the fact that sustainability cuts into every discipline, including history and economics,” said Murphy. “Sustainability is everywhere.”

Rhode Island College has created a new course identification for Sustainability Studies. The first course, SUST 200: Introduction to Sustainability, is the kick-off for the Sustainable Systems Initiative launched during the first summer session, which began May 20.

“We’re putting all the eggs into one basket with this – economics, anthropology, social justice, environment, chemistry and biology,” said RIC professor of technology education Charlie McLaughlin, who is teaching the four-credit undergraduate course.

Student interest in experimenting and creating energy devices signaled a good time to broaden the studies into a campuswide minor in sustainability, said McLaughlin.

“In the last couple of years my students have done a solar project. They have to heat 32 ounces of water up to 90 degrees in 30 minutes,” McLaughlin said.

Hands-on projects as undergraduates will give students a chance to explore job possibilities, and focus education and skills, as they continue their college work, he said. That can be an advantage when they go into the job market.

“More people are looking closely at green efforts. The fewer resources you use, the more money you can hold on to. It’s a balance between the economy and the environment,” McLaughlin said.

The emphasis on sustainability is written into the name of the nonprofit The Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living in Providence. Interim Executive Director Mark DeMoranville will be working in collaboration with McLaughlin in the Sustainable Systems Initiative.

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