Solutions for 21st Century Challenges

Imagine what a sustainable future would look like, and what you can do to make it a reality. As an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major at UNC, you’ll study ways to achieve this vision in all different areas of work and life. This versatile program spans diverse academic disciplines as it explores interconnected issues of sustainability in business, public policy, conservation, recreation and more. You’ll learn through a combination of classroom mentorship and hands-on experience, with rewarding opportunities to apply sustainable approaches in real-world scenarios, such as taking part in an organic farming project and exploring partnerships with local agencies to promote sustainable practices. The Environmental and Sustainability Studies program is also designed with flexibility to suit diverse interests and career pathways, so you can tailor a program of study to fit your needs.

Finding answers to complex questions

As an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major at UNC, you’ll be part of an active, engaged student community that puts sustainability study into practice. One such project involves a 6-week summer course in urban agriculture, where you learn to work on a farm and grow food organically to sell at market, in partnership with a local farm market. This is just one of many opportunities you’ll find either on campus or in the community to promote sustainability and environmental stewardship through energy efficiency initiatives, recycling, composting and more.

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Degree Options

B.A. in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

The B.A. in Environmental and Sustainability Studies is a holistic, interdisciplinary program, spanning a broad range of disciplines, reflecting the wide array of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to analyzing complex problems in environmental studies and sustainability. Its focus on interconnected issues of sustainability can lead to, and complement, any number of career paths. You'll develop skills for thinking systematically and critically about environmental sustainability issues and how solutions can be implemented. Coursework and fieldwork will provide opportunities to examine, challenge, and reflect on contemporary assumptions about environmental sustainability and you'll be able to analyze and evaluate how complex systems are integrated.

Environmental and Sustainable Studies Minor

Our 18-credit Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor helps you develop the skills to find practical solutions to environmental challenges facing your community, the nation and the world. The minor can be a strong complement to any major and is especially useful for students majoring in disciplines that relate to the natural sciences, environment and conservation.

Related Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Your Future in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Sustainability is about using the resources that we have in a way that ensures future generations will also have what they need. It’s a concept that touches every area of our lives, in politics, in the workplace and in our homes. At UNC, you’ll be part of a program that promotes interactions with the public and policy makers to implement practical solutions to environmental problems, with diverse opportunities for experiential learning that include internships, field studies and community engagement.

Consider UNC's B.A. in Environmental and Sustainable Studies if you:

  • Want to find solutions that benefit ecosystems, human communities and the economy
  • Enjoy hands-on learning and working in diverse academic disciplines
  • Thrive in an active learning environment with close faculty mentorship

You’ll learn:

  • Applications of science and technology for sustainable use of natural resources
  • Urban agriculture, water resource economics, ecological and biological commerce and environmental law and politics
  • The role of sustainability in our daily lives and how past and present attitudes toward the environment have impacted today’s world
  • Critical thinking and problem solving skills

Sample courses:

  • Sustainability and Capitalism
  • Environment, Politics and Law
  • Global Population and Human Needs
  • Energy Policy and Economics
  • Internship in Environmental Studies
  • Urban Agriculture

Growing Local

UNC Environmental Studies students dig deep to bring local food to the community for the global good.

At UNC, students, faculty and community members are developing resources that connect local farmers with the community and make buying local beneficial on many levels. In March, UNC was selected as one of 27 communities and programs nationally to receive support from the White House Rural Council’s “Local Food, Local Places” initiative. The initiative offers direct technical support and expertise to community partners, integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. It’s one of a number of fortuitous connections that has spurred the program. Learn More

Beyond the Classroom

Our graduates have gone on to pursue a wide range of careers in environmental blog writing, clean energy research, and sustainability oversight, just to name a few. The question is: what will you choose to do, and how will you make an impact, once you earn your degree?

Where can your degree take you?

Today, almost every career involves sustainability at some level. In addition to being beneficial to the environment, many companies adopt sustainability strategies to increase profits, improve efficiency, engage consumers and have a more positive impact in their communities. You’ll find jobs in business, government, academic institutions, the healthcare industry and more. The following are just a few of the possible career paths you might pursue with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from UNC:

  • Sustainability officer or manager
  • Environmental scientist
  • Sustainability planner and analyst
  • Outreach and communications specialist
  • Energy analyst

Current Research in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

One of the things that makes UNC special is that our professors are both dedicated educators and mentors, and accomplished researchers with diverse areas of expertise. Here’s a sample of current research in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies department:

Chelsie Romulo, PhD

Resource Extraction and Sustainability

Chelsie Romulo, Ph.D., focuses her research on the sustainability of harvesting fruit from Aguaje Palms, a plant that grows in the swamp areas of the Peruvian Amazon. This fruit is important for many animal species and also provides income for rural communities. Her research works to answer questions about how people make decisions about resource extraction and how those decisions impact long-term sustainability. Decisions made by Aguaje harvesters and consumers could impact both the ecology of the rainforest, as well as the local economy. Through both qualitative and quantitative data-analysis, her work helps inform sustainable regional management for this important plant species.