Society and Environment, Washington State University, since 1970s – with consumption focus since 2012

  • Lecturer: Emily Huddart Kennedy
  • Program: undergraduate level, sociology
  • Duration: 1 semester (16 weeks), 160m per week
  • Class size: 25 students,
  • Focus: theories and concepts relevant to environmental sociology, with a focus on consumption.
  • Themes: Includes the history of Environmental Sociology, treadmill of production theories, ecological modernization theories, social practice theories, key concepts in environmental sociology including neoliberalism, citizen-consumer hybrid, consumption, environmental justice, ecological citizenship, eco-feminism, and social movements.
  • Novel approach: on the first day of class, students are invited to write down what environmental issues are worrisome to them, what is in their power to address, and what they do on a daily basis to improve the issue(s); at the end of the course, they revisit their letters. The purpose is to help students recognize the individualization of environmental responsibility and how their consumption choices are embedded in socio-cultural contexts.
  • Student evaluation: three modalities:
    1. 8-10 page term Paper (35%), with feedback from student peers (10%);
    2. Two in-class exams, based on essays or short answers (40%);
    3. Class participation and reading assignments (20%)
  • Course evaluation: the students found it challenging to consider questions of power and inequality in relation to (un)sustainable consumption (as opposed to students who received a similar course at the University of Alberta and were engaged by the critical perspective).
  • Challenge: empirical evidence of consumption patterns locally, state-level, nationally and internationally is lacking. Also, literature describing race, class, and gender dimensions of unsustainable and sustainable consumption.