In-Class Exercise

Environmental Justice 101

Environmental Justice (EJ) is concerned with making sure that (a) no community takes on an unfair share of environmental burdens and (b) environmental benefits are shared in an equitable way regardless of race, class, gender, or orientation. The Environmental Justice Movement challenges environmental injustices, with a special focus on racial and class disparities, in the U.S. and around the globe. The purpose of this tool is to help students begin to understand:

  1. What EJ is – and what environmental injustices are; 
  2. How the EJ movement works to address EJ issues (especially in the U.S. South, where the movement was born) with close attention to injustices related to race and class;
  3. The different types of roles that scientists and engineers in particular can play in this work.

This tool was contributed by Jennifer Hirsch. We also want to thank Fatemeh Shafiei from Spelman College for contributing to this tool.

SLS Case Study: Maker Culture and Sustainable Transportation (GT Mechanical Engineering)

While recycling is a time-honored tradition of the environmentally-conscious, an equally powerful way to build sustainable communities is by learning to reuse and repair damaged materials. Maker culture, a version of DIY culture that delights in creation and repair, offers a model for sustainability. In this case study, follow the adventures of GT student Buzz as he sets out to repair his bike using two Georgia Tech Maker Spaces: The Starter Bikes bike repair cooperative, and the Invention Studio. By learning how to restore his bike, Buzz empowers himself to live a sustainable life in another important way: as a bike commuter. Read on to consider the intersections of maker culture and sustainable transportation.

This tool was contributed by Arkadeep Kumar, Bob Myers, and Bethany Jacobs.

ReGenesis Case Study: Chemical Safety & Ethics in Relation to Communities

This tool explores the principle that environmental health impacts are a function of the inherent risk multiplied by exposure. In chemical processes we have become better at managing inherent risk, but we also have a significant legacy of mismanagement. One such example occurred in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where local politician Harold Mitchell and community organization ReGenesis tackled the problem of their community's long-term exposure to hazardous waste.

The tool below uses a video of Rep. Mitchell to explain the events in Spartanburg. It explores how local chemical plants mismanaged and deliberately covered up risks, nearly leading to a chemical disaster that they were not equipped to contain. Through this activity, you will explore and discuss how chemical engineering professionals should respond to similar situations, and what responsibilities such professionals have to the communities around them.

The Smart, Sustainable Neighborhood: A Case Study (GT Business)

In this case study, gas and electric utility holding company Southern Company has embarked on an ambitious experiment to learn more about energy usage at a household level, as well as community-scale microgrids. Every minute, sixty-two homes in Reynolds Landing upload appliance level data to Southern Company. How can Southern Company use this vast amount of data to promote energy efficiency? Are microgrids a key to creating a more sustainable and resilient energy future? How can microgrids impact or change traditional power generation business models like those used by Southern Company? Read on to learn more and consider what kinds of experiments you would run if this was your project.

This tool was developed by Bob Myers. 

The Georgia Tech Sustainability Timeline: A Guided Conversation

The Georgia Tech Sustainability Timeline offers a detailed portrait of the university's commitment to sustainability, from humble beginnings to its introduction of major initiatives like Serve-Learn-Sustain. This tool pairs the Timeline with a Guided Discussion strategy known as ORID (Observe, Reflect, Interpret, Decide). Using ORID, you will generate productive conversations about the University's past, present, and future as a leader of sustainability.

You can use the ORID framework to guide almost any conversation, in the classroom or the workplace. Read more about it here.

This tool was contributed by Bethany Jacobs and Delaney Rickles.

Co-Curricular Reflection Tool

This tool provides instructors with a focused reflective activity that asks students to make connections between their course and a co-curricular activity. Reflection related to co-curricular activities gives students time and space to critically examine the activity and understand its relevance to their learning in class. Some of the reflection questions require adaptation to suit course objectives.

SLS Case Study: The Flint Water Crisis

The Flint Water Crisis is one of the most significant instances of environmental injustice in the 21st century.  In this case study, read about the impact of the crisis on the natural world, as well as the residents of Flint, Michigan, and learn about how we can use technology to create a safe, sustainable water system. Serve-Learn-Sustain interprets sustainable communities as integrated systems, wherein nature, technology and society all inform each other. As you read this case study, consider these terms as discrete factors, but also as connected.

This tool was contributed by Bethany Jacobs. 

Learning More About Community Organizations

This presentation tool, based on a lesson created by Yelena Rivera-Vale and Kristina Chatfield for their GT 1000 course, introduces first year students to community organizations working on initiatives in the local Atlanta area. Interviewing members, actively participating in organizational activities, and then reporting on these experiences allows students a chance to not only further explore the ways that Georgia Tech actively partners with community organizations but also offers a chance to see some of the successes produced by these partnerships first-hand.

ReGenesis Case Study: Creating a Sustainable Community through Collaborative Problem-Solving

This tool uses the ReGenesis case study from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to explore what it means to “create sustainable communities” through broad stakeholder engagement. Spartanburg was found to be experiencing higher levels of health issues due to chemical plants and other polluting factors in the area. ReGenesis, a community-based organization led by community member Harold Mitchell – now a member of the South Carolina legislature – worked with the EPA to use their Collaborative Problem Solving methodology to expose the inequity and turn the community around.

This tool was contributed by Kari Watkins and Delaney Rickles. The affiliated case study, "ReGenesis—A Practical Application of the CPS Model," was written by the EPA. 

SLS Case Study: The Atlanta BeltLine

The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the most important urban renewal projects of the 21st century. In this case study, read about the ambitions, successes, and struggles of this project, now in its 12th year. Serve-Learn-Sustain interprets sustainable communities as integrated systems, wherein environmental, economic, and social factors all inform each other. As you read this case study, consider these terms as discrete factors, but also as connected.  This tool was contributed by Dr. Bethany Jacobs.

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