Sustainability Certificate Course Descriptions

Required Courses

Sustainability in the UC: Elida Erickson, Director of Sustainability
The purpose of this course is to provide a general overview of sustainability efforts at UCSC, from policy and operations, to student initiative and programming, to academics and co-curricular activities. We will contextualize the UCSC campus’ lens into sustainability within the larger context of the campus sustainability movement across institutions of higher education. Small group discussion and hands-on activities will engage participants proactively throughout the session.

Beyond the Blue Bin: Understanding Zero Waste: Kristen Lee, UCSC Sustainability Program Manager; Leslie O’Malley, City of Santa Cruz Waste Reduction Assistant
This course provides an in-depth look at waste management. We’ll explore waste systems on campus, locally and regionally, the current international recycling industry collapse, and how our cultural conception of waste as a society has gotten us into this pickle. This course will examine how the mantra of the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle needs some updating and have fun with interactive games. The goal of this course is to provide you with the information you need to take action, get Trash Talk certified so you can make your department’s events Zero Waste, and to equip you with skills to be able to think through a reduction and reuse lens in your role both on campus and at home. 

Climate Change Science & Policy: Ellen Vaughan, UCSC Climate & Water Action Manager & Tiffany Wise-West, City of Santa Cruz Sustainability & Climate Action Manager
This course will provide participants with an updated overview of climate science and examine global and local climate impacts. The presenters will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various political and technological efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and examine how municipalities plan for and address climate change.

Intersections Between Diversity & Environment: Dr. Rebecca Hernandez, Director of American Indian Resource Center; Elida Erickson, Director of Sustainability
A core value at UCSC is our commitment to environmental sustainability, conservation, and a “green” ethic. This course explores how concepts of sustainability and environmentalism, while assumed to be universal, reflect histories of discrimination and inequality, privilege some landscapes over others, and (de)center certain understandings and experiences. We argue that environmental policies and discourses are inherently radicalized, classed, gendered, culturally contextualized, etc. We begin the course providing a framework and overview of environmental justice, and then share some results of research conducted at UCSC examining undergraduate perceptions and behaviors. Finally, we discuss how our campus and larger community can be more environmentally just.

Fostering Sustainable Behavior: Shauna Casey, Special guest instructor and former Sustainability Programs Manager
Creating a more sustainable campus requires engaging people in behaviors that reduce waste and conserve resources, as well as more complex behaviors required to shift institutional norms and foster a more just, equitable and sustainable culture. The common response to this realization emphasizes needing to "change people's behavior." This course will challenge the premise that people need “fixing” and provide a framework for exploring what psychology can tell us about how to best foster sustainable behaviors that endure over time. Participants will walk away with tools for developing, implementing and evaluating engagement strategies within their role in the University setting.

Green Offices: Sustainability Office Staff and Student Green Office Team
As campus employees, we each spend a significant portion of our time in offices across campus. How offices are set up and the everyday choices that employees make while they are at work can have a major impact on sustainability! This course provides an introduction and overview of ways to implement sustainable practices in an office environment. You will learn best practices from staff and student experts through our Green Office program, and share highlights and lessons learned with other colleagues across campus in regards to the formation of office green teams, zero waste practices, water and energy use. You'll also have an opportunity to learn more about how to get Green Office Certified. This class meets for 1.5 hours and would require 1-2 additional hours should you choose to pursue a formal certification.


Elective Courses 

Climate Justice: Kevin Koenig, Amazon Watch
The people who have historically benefited the most from the burning of fossil fuels are not the same people who are bearing the most severe consequences from climate change impacts. This course will examine global and local climate impacts from the frontlines of extraction in places like the Amazon Basin, to fenceline refinery communities here in California. We'll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of policy efforts to curb emissions including the UNFCCC process, explore social movements to keep fossil fuels in the ground and hold industry and financial institutions accountable, and hear directly from indigenous leaders about their efforts to defend standing forests and advance their rights.

Sustainable Cities & Social Equity: Chris Benner, UCSC Professor of Environmental Studies and Tiffany Wise-West, Sustainability & Climate Action Manager, City of Santa Cruz
We have become an urban planet, with most major economic, social, and environmental processes shaped by how our cities grow and change. Promoting more sustainable urban growth is critical for the planet's future, but there are important equity concerns in how we move towards more sustainable urban growth. This course will examine overall global patterns of urbanization and plans for development of more sustainable cities. We'll look at state legislation designed to promote more sustainable cities, and the social equity impacts of the urban planning processes that have emerged in recent years. In particular, we will focus on the City of Santa Cruz’s sustainable policies, programs and projects as well as how they are integrating social vulnerability and equity into these processes.

Registration Instructions

Registration for all courses in the 2020-21 certificate program is open to all UCSC staff, faculty, and graduate students at 8:00 am on Friday, October 2nd.

1. Log into the UC Learning Center using your CruzID Gold password.
2. Click on the "Library" icon at the top left of the page.
3. Click the white “>” near the "Professional Development" courses in the UC Learning Center.
4. Select the arrow to the left of the "Sustainability" link.
5. Click on the "Sustainability Certificate" link.
6. On the activities page, locate the class you are interested in
7. Click the white down arrow next to the “SELECT” button that corresponds to the class you want to register for.
8. Select the “Add” button next to the day you'd like to register for. There may be only one day available.
9. Click the blue "Register" button at the lower right hand side of the page.
Congratulations! You have registered for the class!

If you require assistance registering for classes, please send an email to

If you have questions about your progress in the program, or would like guidance on how our updated requirements affect your transcript, please reach out to  


Cancellation and No-Show Policy 

We understand that unplanned or unexpected events come up! Due to the popularity and high demand for this program, currently free to participants, please review the following guidelines, established to reduce the number of last minute cancellations and no-shows and ensure that those who sign up for the program have the time commitment to attend the classes:
1. Any participant who has 2 no-show attendances will be removed from the program
2. Any participant who has 3 last minute cancellations (48 hours or less notice) will be removed from the program.
We encourage you to speak to your supervisor or manager prior to registering for classes to receive their approval to attend.