Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sustainability
NYU Professors Lisa DiCaprio and Mary Leou were awarded a Green Grant from the NYU Office of Sustainability in spring 2013, to launch an initiative to help faculty integrate sustainability in their curriculum. This initiative was a response to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) that has been signed by 671 college university presidents including NYU President John Sexton.
The grant supported a series of faculty workshops. The first, entitled "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sustainability: Transforming Curriculum in Higher Education" was attended by over 40 NYU faculty from 5 NYU Schools, graduate students and guests. The workshop included a panel discussion from three NYU faculty members, who presented sustainability concepts from their discipline areas: Jennifer Berg, NYU Nutrition and Food Studies, Rae Zimmerman, NYU, Urban Planning, Constantine Kontokosta, Center for Urban Science and Progress.
The workshop enabled attendees to discuss future projects and consider ways in which they might integrate sustainbility concepts into their work. Workshop materials included a list of sustainability concepts and websites which might be useful in integrating sustainability into courses and projects. Links to sustainability concepts are listed below.
The second workshop featuring Ecological Footprints was held in spring of 2014. Presenters included: Ozgem Ornektekin, NYU Office of Sustainability, Betty Cremmins, Carbon Disclosure Project, and Jennifer Berg, NYU Dept of Nutrition and Food Studies.
Sustainability Concepts and Terms
The proposed current geological age, in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the natural environment.
- Anthropocene I Welcome to the Anthropocene
- The Age of Humans: Evolutionary Perspectives on the Anthropocene I Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
- Anthropocene: The human age I Nature.com
The variety of life in an ecosystem. This can include flora and fauna.
Sustainable, artificial creations made to mimic natural patterns and strategies.
The instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems.
- Biophilia I Harvard University Press
- Biophilia hypothesis I Encyclopedia Britannica
- Biophilic Design I Terrapin Bright Green
A sector of the economy that produces goods and services with a positive environmental impact and low carbon emissions.
A phenomenon where there are major climate fluctuations in a small period of time caused both naturally and unnaturally.
- Global Climate Change I NASA
- Climate Hot Map I Union of Concerned Scientists
- Center for Climate Systems Research
Climate change adaptation
Steps taken to lessen the lessen the impacts of climate change that has already taken place.
Cradle to cradle/closed loop design
A continuous cycle where products are created, broken down, and then recycled again to create new products.
- Closing the Loop: Designing for a sustainable future I Climate Change News
- Recycling: open-loop versus closed-loop thinking I Penn State University
- Cradle to Cradle Certification I Cradle to Cradle Products Program
Ecological footprints: carbon, water, forest.
The required amount of forest, water, and carbon a person, community needs to sustain their lifestyle.
- Ecological Wealth of Nations I Footprint Network
- Footprint Calculator I Footprint Network
- Ecological Footprint I Earth Day Network
Energy efficiency and conservation
Using less energy to provide the same level of energy services.
- Energy Efficiency and Conservation I US Energy Information Administration
- Energy Efficiency I Department of Energy
An organized effort to teach how environmental ecosystems function, and how humans interconnect and interact with nature.
- Environmental Education I EPA
- NAAEE I North American Association of Environmental Education
- NYSOEA I New York State Outdoor Environmental Education Association
The fair treatment of all people, even those that are underrepresented, in the process of creating and implementing environmental laws.
A natural fuel such as coal, oil or natural gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.
A structure designed to mitigate negative environmental impacts through the entirety of the building’s cycle: from design to maintenance.
Practicing purchasing habits with a minimal negative environmental impact.
- Shopping Green I FTC
Items with either a positive environmental impact, or a minimal negative impact. This takes into account the entirety of the product’s lifecycle: from raw materials to packaging.
- Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services Share I EPA
- Energy Star Products I Energy Star
Areas set aside for the sole purpose of providing natural landscapes. These are most often found in cities, which lack more natural spaces.
- What is Open Space/Green Space? I EPA
Greenhouse gas emissions
Gas in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation, which traps and holds heat. The most commonly discussed greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and methane.
- Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions I EPA
- Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions I EPA
- What are Greenhouse Gases I NOAA
Life cycle assessments and supply chain analysis
A technique used to assess the environmental impact of a product’s lifecycle.
Limits of growth/planetary boundaries
The idea that Earth can only support so many living organisms, in this case, human beings.
- The nine planetary boundaries I Stockholm Resilience Centre
Natural resources, including soil, air, water, etc.
- Natural Capital I The Global Development Research Center
- Natural Capital & Ecosystem Services I National Capital Project
Energy that is collected from sources that are naturally replenished, such as sunlight, wind, and waves.
- Learning About Renewable Energy I NREL
- Renewable Energy Explained I US Energy Information Administration
Resiliency sustainable agriculture
Agriculture designed to not only be environmentally sustainable, but also resilient to climate change.
- What is sustainable agriculture? I UC Davis
- Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture: A Real Alternative to False Solutions I ActionAid
The knowledge and deep understanding of building towards a more sustainable future.
- Sustainability Literacy Test I Sulitest.org
- Assessing Sustainability Literacy I AASHE
- Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation
Designing and planning cities that are economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
- The 12 Rules of Sustainable Urbanism I Sustainable Cities Collective
- Sustainable Urbanism I Sustainable Cities Institute
Intelligent transportation systems
The application of advanced sensor, computer, electronics, and communication technologies and management strategies—in an integrated manner—to improve the safety and efficiency of the surface transportation system.
The practice of development for cities, towns, and suburban areas.
- Initiatives to Reduce Plastic Pollution by Lisa DiCaprio, August 29, 2018
- High-rise Passive House in NYC by Lisa DiCaprio, December 18, 2017
- Educating for Sustainability: An Emerging Purpose of Education by Charles Hopkins, July 30, 2013
- Greening Universities Toolkit by United Nations Environment Program, 2013
Additional Helpful Links
- American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment
- National Council for Science and the Environment
- New York Academy of Sciences
- NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress
- NYU Department of Nutrition and Food Studies
- NYU Environmental Studies Program
- NYU Marron Institute on Cities and the Urban Environment
- NYU Metropolitan Studies
- NYU Sustainability Office
- NYU Wagner Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS)
- NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management
- Stockholm Resilience Centre