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Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education

Institutional Environmental Sustainability Research at FGCU


The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education is committed to advancing the Florida Gulf Coast University mission of environmental sustainability.  We conduct research and develop educational materials related to sustainability within the institution. For example, we believe that the Earth Charter is a valuable educational tool and an inspirational guide toward sustainability in our institutional life.  Accordingly, we are developing a guide to teaching the Earth Charter at Florida Gulf Coast University. We have also advised the administration in the areas of humane and sustainable food systems and campus carbon neutrality.

FGCU featured in the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development

Florida Gulf Coast University has edited a special section of the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. Director of the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education Peter Blaze Corcoran, Center Senior Advisor Jim Wohlpart, and Vice President of Administration and Finance Joe Shepard worked with Center Faculty Associates to prepare a case study of FGCU’s work in education for sustainable development.

This invitation came in response to a long-standing request from the Journal for a brief piece on FGCU’s environmental studies program to be published in their Academic Programmes section and a request for the Center to write an editorial or opinion essay on the role of the Earth Charter in higher education. The project was expanded into a broader examination of the University’s work toward environmental sustainability.

The articles are featured in Issue 3, Volume 2 of the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development (2009). We have included the authors and titles of the articles below, with links to PDF versions for the campus community:

JESD Introduction: "New Series Takes an In-depth Look at University-wide Sustainability Programmes" PDF

A. James Wohlpart, Joseph Shepard, and Peter Blaze Corcoran. "Born of Hope and Controversy: The Challenges of Infusing Sustainability in the Campus Operations and Curriculum at FGCU." PDF

Joe Shepard and Lewis Johnson. "Implementing Sustainable Institutional Practices." PDF

Sharon Bevins and Neil Wilkinson. "Sustainability Across the Curriculum." PDF

Linda Rowland, Jesse Millner, Nathan Hill, Amy Towne, and A. James Wohlpart. "Approaches and Practices for Infusing Sustainability into a Writing Program." PDF
Eric Otto and A. James Wohlpart. "Creating a Culture of Sustainability: Infusing Sustainability into the Humanities." PDF

Wilson G. Bradshaw and Joe Shepard. "FGCU: The Way Forward." PDF

Weakland, Joseph P. and Peter Blaze Corcoran. "The Earth Charter in Higher Education for Sustainability." PDF

Humane and Sustainable Food Systems at FGCU

Our first major research program is in sustainable food systems at FGCU.  This research is undertaken in cooperation with The Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C.  The Earth Charter has been particularly significant to our work with food systems. Since eating is an ethical act, the Earth Charter’s ethical vision is helpful in examining the often overlooked consequences of our food choices. For example, we might ask, when preparing for a meal, do we participate in food systems that work in synergy with the life processes of Earth or in those that are exploitative of human labor and the environment?

The Center’s “Food Working Group” is using Earth Charter Principles as an ethical framework for a humane and sustainable food system at Florida Gulf Coast University. Center staff have undertaken a study of the centralized process of agribusiness distribution that brings food to campus dining halls. Inspired by the Earth Charter’s call for “quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world (Earth Charter Subprinciple 7.f), the Food Working Group has also examined ways in which the University can provide students with food that is locally sourced, organically grown, fairly traded, and produced with care for animals and the environment.

In addition, we are working to prepare a guide to eating humanely and sustainably with the Earth Charter. This guide will be based on research and experience at Florida Gulf Coast University and is intended to be broadly useful among many other institutions of higher education. The Food Working Group also received a grant from the University's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) to research and publish a campus food guide based on Earth Charter ethics.

Earth Charter Meal

The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education seeks to be a creative conduit for the dissemination and practice of Earth Charter ethics. Toward this end we are developing a guide to conducting an Earth Charter Meal. The Center has used the Earth Charter Meal as a beginning exercise in linking Earth Charter ethics to sustainable living in our everyday food choices. The Earth Charter Meal demonstrates how we can eat in ways that support farmers and food system workers, protect the environment and public health, treat animals humanely, and provide food security for all. 

We have used the Earth Charter Meal at Florida Gulf Coast University as an educational methodology to bring together student leaders from a diverse range of campus groups and organizations – and to unite them around the common goal of working toward a humane and sustainable campus food system.

A draft text of the Guide to Conducting and Earth Charter Meal is available for download:
 Download the Guide (PDF, 120 kb)

American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment

In February 2007, Interim President Richard Pegnetter signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, a new initiative to move institutions of higher education to climate-neutrality. President Pegnetter has asked the Center to serve in a leadership capacity on the President’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Council management group tasked with creating institutional structures to guide the development and implementation plan to achieve climate neutrality at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Center has long held "greening the university" as a critical dimension of our work. One of our objectives is to provide advice and expertise to the Administration on a variety of projects in environmental sustainability. We believe that institutional practice is a sine qua non of education for sustainability. With David Orr, we believe that architecture is "crystallized pedagogy" - and the we learn much from the human-made systems that surround us in educational settings.

As part of this work, the Center commissioned a white paper designed to assist the Florida Gulf Coast University community in charting its path toward carbon neutrality as a Leadership Circle signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. "Understanding the President's Climate Commitment Toward a Carbon Neutral FGCU" was prepared by Dr. Rick Clugston for presentation to President Wilson Bradshaw, Provost Ronald Toll, and Vice President Joe Shepard.

We see his paper as a beginning. The Center looks forward to continued work with the Administration toward a carbon neutral Florida Gulf Coast University. We hope the analysis and recommendations in this paper will be a contribution to President Bradshaw's climate commitment.

We offer Dr. Rick Clugston's white paper, "Understanding the President's Climate Commitment Toward a Carbon Neutral Florida Gulf Coast University," for download as apart of the Center's commitment to education and action.