Sustainability in Higher Education: Beyond the Green Mirror

Amy Walsh*, Eleni Michalopoulou, Aisling Tierney, Hannah Tweddell, Chris Preist, Chris Willmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

2 Citations (Scopus)


With living labs and co-production increasingly playing a vital role in universities, the University of Bristol is taking significant and drastic steps in incorporating both of these themes into its strategic planning. This paper discusses how the Bristol Futures integrated approach, and specifically its Sustainable Futures pathway, are taking sustainability beyond its obvious and most frequently used links to connect it to subjects like homelessness and resilient cities, personal happiness and wellbeing and a sense of purpose in life. The aim of this approach is to provide a framework through which the learners can engage with other roles and disciplines, while using sustainability as a lens to achieve this. The living lab model provides us with the tools and approaches needed in order to use a new online Sustainable Futures course, designed by a University of Bristol team as a platform where learners from across the world can interact. The focal point of Bristol Futures is a dual approach—that learning, and change come from the dual approaches of theoretical understanding and practical experience. Using sustainability as a lens and the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, students explore local and global challenges through a series of interdisciplinary case studies (Wood 2004) and reflect on how they would best be positioned to address those challenges (Martin and Jucker 2005). It then harnesses the University of Bristol’s international award-winning reputation and the Bristol Students’ Union Learn Act Engage Create approach to give students engaged learning opportunities to turn theoretical study of sustainability into practical action in communities. Bristol Futures provides students with a unique combination of skills that will enable them to become agents of change on a local and global level, using online courses, face-to-face study and engaged learning to ensure they take sustainability outside the lecture rooms and turn it from theory, to practice and a way of life.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUniversities as Living Labs for Sustainable Development
Subtitle of host publicationSupporting the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals
EditorsWalter Leal Filho, Amanda Lange Salvia, Rudi W. Pretorius, Luciana Londero Brandli, Evangelos Manolas, Fatima Alves, Ulisses Azeiteiro, Judy Rogers, Chris Shiel , Arminda Do Paco
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-15604-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-15603-9
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2019

Publication series

NameWorld Sustainability Series
ISSN (Print)2199-7373
ISSN (Electronic)2199-7381


  • Education for sustainable development
  • Higher education
  • Sustainability
  • University of Bristol

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