Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Short Programme at MIT - Sustainability: Principles and Practice

Sustainability: Principles and Practice

Date: August 5-9, 2013 | Tuition: $3,300 | Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2.6

Application Deadline »



This course will introduce participants to the goals, principles, and practical applications of sustainability. Many organizations, companies, and institutions are increasingly interested in conducting their activities while becoming more sensitive to environmental, social, and other concerns over a longer-term future. Sustainability has many definitions, and includes environmental, social, and economic dimensions. In this course, we will examine the major environmental issues and trends happening in modern society from a scientific and practical perspective, including energy and resource use, pollution, climate change, water, and population. Different definitions of sustainability will be introduced and discussed, and case studies will focus on examining and critiquing sustainability plans from organizations and institutions. The course will present practical skills for participants in the area of integrating sustainability into business practices, operations, policies, and research and development. New research will be presented by faculty working in the area of sustainability science and engineering at MIT.


  Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings and tools (40%)

  Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (20%)

  Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world 40%)

Delivery Methods

  Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (40%)

  Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (30%)

  Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (30%)


  Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (70%)

  Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (20%)

  Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (10%)



  1. Describe and define what is meant by sustainability in different contexts
  2. Understand the major environmental, social and economic drivers of sustainability challenges
  3. Analyze the benefits and limitations of sustainability goals and indicators
  4. Formulate short and long term sustainability objectives and plans
  5. Appraise and evaluate sustainability practices and programs at an organizational or institutional scale



This course is appropriate for professionals from a wide range of industries and sectors who are interested in organizational sustainability. Participants from local, state and federal government, especially those who are engaged in environmental and planning activities, would also benefit from the course.



Day 1: What is Sustainability? 
On day 1, participants will be introduced to the concept of sustainability, with special attention to historical and international perspectives. Different definitions of sustainability will be introduced and discussed, and an interactive exercise will explore sustainability definitions and relevance to different organizations and contexts. Topics include:

·         Large-scale trends and grand challenges of sustainability

·         Sustainability in context: historical and multinational perspectives

·         Definitions of sustainability 

Day 2: Trends and Strategies
Lectures and discussions on day 2 will focus in depth on the specific areas in which societies and organizations might be concerned with sustainability. Among these are energy, materials, natural resources (water, land, etc.), and social justice concerns. We will identify common challenges in these areas and strategies to address them, using case studies to inform discussions. Topics include:

·         Sustainability of global resources

·         Materials use and life-cycle analysis

·         Water quantity and quality

·         Toxic substances and policies

Day 3: Setting Goals and Measuring Progress
Lectures and activities on day 3 will identify best practices in setting concrete goals and designing appropriate, measurable indicators in the area of sustainability. This will involve discussions about how to identify and define what is and what is not sustainable. Topics include:

·         Sustainability goals and planning

·         Benchmarks and indicators

·         Measuring progress

·         Adaptive management strategies

Day 4: Business Perspectives
Through interactive assignments on day 4, participants will explore the advantages of sustainability-related planning in a business context, focusing on the “triple bottom line” of economic, ecological, and social progress. An interactive project will focus on hands-on sustainability planning for organizations and their staff.

Day 5: Perceptions, Communication and Wrap-up
The final day’s class will explore relationships between organizations and the public in sustainability efforts. Lectures and discussions will introduce theories and practical techniques to communicate environment and sustainability information within organizations and to the public. 



Class runs 9:30 am - 5:00 pm on Monday and 9:00 am - 5:00 pm every day the rest of the week except for Friday when it ends at 12:00 noon.

Registration is on Monday morning from 8:45 - 9:15 am.

Special events include a networking happy hour for course participants and faculty on Monday night and a dinner on Thursday evening. Dinner on Thursday is included in tuition.

Please note that laptops are required for this course.



Noelle E. Selin is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a joint appointment as Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. She is also affiliated with the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Her research focuses on using atmospheric chemistry modeling to inform decision-making strategies on air pollution, climate change, and mercury pollution. Professor Selin received her Ph.D from Harvard University in Earth and Planetary Sciences, in the Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group. She developed and evaluated a global, 3D atmospheric model of mercury pollution. Professor Selin has also published articles and book chapters on the interactions between science and policy in international environmental negotiations, in particular focusing on global efforts to regulate hazardous chemicals and persistent organic pollutants. Previously, she was also a research associate with the Initiative on Science and Technology for Sustainability at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a visiting researcher at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark, and worked on chemicals issues at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Jason Jay is a Lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management, teaching three of the core courses for the MIT Sloan Sustainability Certificate, and coordinating the Sloan Sustainability Initiative and its Research Group (SSRG). His current research focuses on “Paradoxes of Hybrid Organizing” that arise when organizations combine institutional logics from business, government, and civil society organizations. This work builds on in-depth ethnographic research on cross-sectoral partnerships. As a research partner of the Sustainable Food Lab, Dr. Jay has also written case studies of company-NGO collaboration to foster sustainable and equitable food value chains. From 2008-2010, Dr. Jay co-developed and served as a project coach for MIT’s Leading Sustainable Systems (L-Lab) course with Peter Senge and Wanda Orlikowski. This course combined classroom learning on sustainability and leadership with action learning on real-world projects with partner organizations. In the 2010-11 school year, he is teaching the Proseminar in Sustainability, co-teaching "Strategies for Sustainable Business," managing the Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab) course, and coordinating sustainability initiatives at MIT Sloan. Alongside these “day jobs,” Dr. Jay has been active in improving the energy and environmental footprint of the MIT campus by founding the MIT Generator and the Greening MIT community engagement campaign, and serving as founding member of the Campus Energy “Walk the Talk” Task Force. Prior to MIT, he ran an Internet startup, traveled around the world, taught kindergarten in a progressive preschool, and worked as a consultant with Dialogos International.

Sai Ravela studied Computer Vision and Robotics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he earned a doctorate in 2002. As a graduate student, he became interested in Earth’s sustainability, and joined the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences department as a post-doc, where he continues today as a Principal Research Scientist. Sai's enduring research interest is to infer and quantify the behavior of Stochastic Fields and Processes. His research suggests new methods to overcome the curses of nonlinearity, dimensionality, and uncertainty—key challenges in describing the evolution of the Earth System. This research has led to Earth-centered applications including new mesoscale data assimilation and storm tracking systems, ecological informatics applications, tools to quantify hurricane risk in present and future, and new laboratory techniques to understand the ocean and atmosphere better. It has also made it out of academia, specifically to a company (WindRisk Tech) he co-founded in 2005. Dr. Ravela has served as a board member for Sustainable-step New England in the past and has delivered several talks communicating climate, complex systems theory, and sustainability to the community. He remains deeply committed to sustainability science and engineering.

Stacy D. VanDeveer is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire. His research interests include international environmental policymaking and its domestic impacts, the connections between environmental and security issues, and the role of expertise in policy making. He has received fellowships from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He will be a senior fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, DC for the 2011-12 academic year. He has received research funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the European Union, and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA), among others. In addition to authoring and co-authoring over fifty articles, book chapters, working papers, and reports, he co-edited several books, including Changing Climates in North American Politics(MIT Press, 2009); Comparative Environmental Politics (MIT Press, forthcoming);Transatlantic Environment and Energy Politics (Ashgate, 2009); EU Enlargement and the Environment (Routledge, 2005); and Saving The Seas (Maryland Sea Grant Press, College Park, MD, 1997).



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We can also offer this course for groups of employees at your location. Please contact the Short Programs office for further details.


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