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The Ins and Outs of Sustainable Living

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Field trip to a wastewater treatment plant? Can't beat that! And that's just one of many experiences students encountered in Living Sustainably in Urban Ecosystems, a freshman seminar taught by IonE resident fellow Sarah Hobbie last fall with Larry Baker, a research professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, and EEB grad student Daniel Nidzgorski.
 
An associate professor of ecology, evolution and behavior, Hobbie is interested in exploring ways to make urban ecosystems more sustainable. Why not start at the beginning, she thought, by giving young adults a foundational sense of what it means to live sustainably in an urban ecosystem? So she used funding from her IonE fellowship to develop the freshman seminar.
 
The two-credit course included field trips to a power plant, a LEED-certified campus building, a student organic farm, a wastewater treatment plant  and a recycling facility, providing insights into where food, energy, and other stuff of life come from and where they go when we're done with them. In addition, students used the Household Flux Calculator, a tool Hobbie developed with colleagues. They created snapshots of how carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycle through their own lives. Perhaps most important of all, the entire course was deliberately set up to help students develop and use critical thinking skills to last a lifetime.

Participants seemed to appreciate the class, particularly the field trips. "The instructors gave me a better idea of what living sustainably really means and how we can apply it to our lives," one wrote in an evaluation.

 Hobbie and Baker plan to offer the course at least two more times. Learn more here.


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