FAQ | CU Boulder Sustainable Practices Program
Who does the new Sustainability Management Certificate serve?
The certificate serves anyone who wants to explore sustainability for organizations—companies, local government, non-profits, schools, and so on. It is valuable for individuals who want to focus on sustainability in their careers, but also for organizations that recognize the long-term importance of sustainability to the health of the planet and their organizations’ bottom lines at the same time. Organizations could send anyone on their staff from facilities management to operations to human resources to communications—anyone who has a deep interest in coordinating and leading sustainability initiatives for the organization.
Our program is devoted to helping people become well-rounded sustainability practitioners by focusing on the whole picture. Those who are already experts in one area can round out the big sustainability picture for themselves.
Why do you think potential students should choose this program?
This program is a great way to include additional skills and perspectives in a sustainability professional's tool kit. It is also a helpful way to test the waters of a sustainability career for those considering a career change. Without making a huge investment in time or money, students can try out topics in sustainability in a single day or online course.
Two key reasons to choose our program: First, the culture of sustainability in and around Boulder and the University of Colorado provides outstanding practitioners as well as faculty. Second, the program’s approach and guiding philosophy treats sustainability as an interdisciplinary system.
What do you mean by “interdisciplinary system”?
The Sustainability Management Certificate program provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary view of sustainability. It covers the dynamics among what’s referred to as the “three pillars” or “triple bottom line” of sustainability: an emphasis on environmental, social, and economic health; and a recognition that these three are fundamentally intertwined. In the long term they form a system that can’t be separated out into one emphasis above the others.
Why is CU a good place to learn about sustainability?
It begins with our instructors. This program draws on the skills and passions of an extraordinary talent pool. First, CU Boulder was rated Sierra Magazine’s “most eco-enlightened” university for 2009 and is an internationally acclaimed knowledge center concerning climate and renewable energy research. We have the national climate and renewable energy research labs—NCAR, NREL, NOAA— collaborating and partnering with the University. The University was also the first to receive a GOLD rating in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) nationwide. Boulder is a national leader and pioneer in municipal and county initiatives: the Climate Smart program, the first “smart grid city,” and so on. The area also attracts companies that make sustainability a high priority. Passionate experts from many of these organizations become instructors in our program.
Colorado in general is a national leader. The state's “New Energy Economy;” green building leaders and efforts across the state; CU, CSU, and other universities who have also taken big steps to emphasize sustainability, and several communities beyond Boulder that have launched major sustainability initiatives.
Do you have opportunities for students who are unemployed or who need financial aid?
Our non-credit certificate courses have been approved for Workforce Investment Act funding; others may be eligible for an alternative student loan through local banks.
Finally, we offer discounts for people who sign up for early bird class registration.
What advice does the program offer for people who want to pursue a sustainability related career?
If you already belong to an organization, get involved with any sustainability activities it might have going: recycling, energy conservation, carpooling and bike-to-work programs, waste reduction, clean technologies. If such programs don’t yet exist, start them. If they’re already up and running, help expand them. Foster a culture of conservation, use metrics to predict cost savings, and incorporate sustainability into a business strategy. And of course, building on your knowledge and experience with a professional certificate is a way to fast-track your experience!
Can one person really make a difference at an organization?
Absolutely. Kai Abelkis, one of our instructors, started off with an interest in recycling. That led him to a part-time job, which eventually gave him the opportunity to guide Boulder Community Hospital to international prominence as a model sustainable medical facility. Now, Kai advises hospital industry leaders all over the world on how sustainability and health care can inform and enhance each other.
What is the most exciting new development in the field of sustainability?
Marvelous new innovations are popping up all over, and no one innovation will solve all the issues by itself.
One of the most exciting developments is that sustainability is going mainstream. Corporations and organizations that used to question whether they could afford to “go green” are now recognizing that they can’t afford NOT to emphasize sustainability. They’re realizing that they’ll be left behind if they can’t make a long-term commitment to sustainability. And that means opportunities for a lot of people who want to help make a difference.