Tentative Syllabus: STS 497D: Projects in Sustainable Living - Fall 2004

(revisions may yet occur)



Tania Slawecki :         116 Willard / 865-7928 / 234-0836 / tms9@psu.edu

                                    105 MRL / 865-0265  [MWF]

David Lettero:              118 Willard / 865-2224 / 883-1115 / dal182@psu.edu


Office hours: By appointment only!!


Location of class:  118 Willard Bldg., and other sites - to be announced in class.  Phone/e-mail me or your classmates if you’re not sure where to meet.   To carpool to off-campus sites, we will meet at some agreed-upon campus location where we can drive our vehicles.  Carpools will leave no later than 5-minutes into the class period, so please be prompt!


Meeting Times:  Class meets 1:25 pm - 4:25 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Course Objective: To engage course participants in hands-on projects, from conception to construction, in various aspects of ecological design including ecological technologies, ecologically sustainable food production (regenerative agriculture), healthy communities, holistic health and nutrition, and Ecological Footprint Analysis.  Through these projects, course approach and content assists participants in developing:

* critical thinking skills regarding what is/is not “sustainable” and assessment tools

* awareness of the “state of the world” and key problems/issues we face

* ecological literacy - familiarity with key people who are developing viable solutions

* a sense of future options and what role we each can play in shaping it.


Recommended Texts for Course:

1. Our Ecological Footprint, by Mathis Wackernagel & William Reese

2. How to Grow More Vegetables…, by John Jeavons

3. The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, by Thom Hartmann


Grading: Grades will be determined by attendance/participation in projects (60%), and a final educational expression project (40%).  Participation and final expression projects must reflect understanding of course content and reading material presented in class. The quality of your project work will be judged by me, your peers, and by  Center for Sustainability staff.  You will be graded on quality of work, ability to work with others, perceived effort/interest, understanding of subject and ability to discuss subject in the greater context of “sustainability”. Weekly evaluations will be administered beginning in the third week of the semester so you know how you are doing.  [ 300 points total: 200 for project content and your mastery of it; 50 for ecological footprint assessment; 50 for quality/peer evaluation ]



* Attendance and Participation in Projects (60%) - Be sure to sign the class attendance sheet before leaving each time we have class.  Partial attendance credit will be given for late arrival to or early departure from class.  Goal is to BE PRESENT and BE INVOLVED!  


* Final Educational Expression Project (40%) : Leave Your Mark - Express what you have learned so others can learn from it too.  This project can take any of several forms: a web page on a project that you have worked on; a song you compose, perform and record for others to hear; a 10-15 minute digital video of a project that you have worked on; an informative and instructional sign posted about a project on which you have worked.  Team work is okay pending clarification of each person’s role and responsibilities – that is, there must be a clear way to grade the contributions of each individual.


* Final Exam Period:  You will be required to be present during the final exam period to present your Final Educational Expression Project, answer questions, and be graded.  There is no final exam, but there will be a short, final, take-home survey.


Fall 2004 Projects / Project Categories


·        Biointensive Mini-Farming, Regenerative Net-Energy Agriculture, and Passive Solar Food Production - principles of soil regeneration, passive solar greenhouse construction and winter food production.

·        Solar Power Applications – active and passive solar projects at the Center for Sustainability’s Solar Shed and Renewable Energy Homestead.  Become familiar with solar-wind hybrid power generation, DC power battery storage, working with inverters, passive solar heating, solar hot water heating, solar food dehydration and more….

·         Living Machines – several possibilities: completion of our large-scale Living Machine at the Center for Sustainability’s site and developing plans for utilizing and expanding that facility as a “green” and LEED-certified building; revamping and upgrading our 25 gal/day living machine model in the Tyson greenhouse; working with the Julian Woods Community to provide maintenance of their living machine system.

·        Green Building Methods – work with “light clay”, “cob”, plastered strawbale, and earthen finishes; learn about radiant floor heating systems, insulation and roofing options for homes, and glazing materials at the Renewable Energy Homestead.

·        Permaculture Site Design – apply the principles of Permaculture Design to candidate sites to generate a plan,  including time frames, staging and appropriate “zoning” of activities


Tentative Schedule of Topics/Projects

* Note: if it’s pouring rain out, we will meet in 118 Willard




Aug 31/Sept 2

No class Tuesday / Introductions in 118 Willard; Project site tours

Sept 7 & 9

Meet in 118 Willard: Earthen Construction; Intro to Solar / Field trip to instructor’s home and monolithic dome in Centre Hall; ecological footprint calculator

Sept 14 & 16

Meet at CfS site: Passive solar design and projects; winter greenhouse planning, solar hot water heating, solar food dehydrating, thermionic floor; [First peer evaluation at end of week]

Sept 21 & 23

Meet at CfS site: Greywater treatment with constructed wetlands; rainwater collection and purification off-the-grid; wetlands plants; field trip to the Julian Woods Evapotranspiration greenhouse and cob oven

Sept 28 & 30

Meet at CfS site: Regnerative agriculture techniques; principles of biointensive mini-farming; sustainable food production, harvest, preservation and healthy food preparation – outline projects for food including small root cellar, cob oven, rocket stove, solar oven

Oct 5 & 7

Meet at CfS site: Focus on soil regenerating cover crops and “double digging” technique to prepare soil; Permaculture Design principles

Oct 12 & 14

 Meet at CfS site:  Focus on Wind/Solar power generation + alternative energy sources / Possible hike & camping trip for long weekend

Oct 19 & 21

Meet in 118 Willard for short video – Focus on living machines. Goto Tyson Greenhouse for living machine model tour / CfS site living machine tour and brainstorming; review of LEED criteria for “green building” and LEED certification

Oct 26 & 28

Discussion: “How do we know if what we’re doing is sustainable?”  Review semester thus far; choose focus project(s) and medium for final educational expression project;  Define project and develop plan

Nov 2 & 4


Nov 9 & 11


Nov 16 & 18

Projects / Healthy Harvest Feast on the 18th

Nov 23 & 25

 Projects / Thanksgiving (24-26)

Nov 30/Dec 2

Meet in 118 Willard: Integrating it all – EcoVillages, Cohousing and Intentional Communities.  Best examples; key issues; Ecological Design video

Dec 7 & 9

Meet in 118 Willard: Strategies for achieving a more sustainable world – LETS/Alternatives to Economics; Lessons from Indigenous cultures; historical perspectives; socio-political issues; self-empowerment

Finals Week





Course Topics and Terminology – if you know all of these already, then you don’t need this course!



“Amoeba Word”

The Brundtland Commission’s definition of Sustainable Development

Problems with the above definition

Albert Bartlett

The Three Circles Model of Sustainability

The Concentric Model of Sustainability

The Paring-Caring-Sharing Models and Three Q’s of Sustainability


Sustainability Metrics/Indicators:


Ecological Footprint

Your Fair Earthshare

Carrying Capacity

Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees

Jay Hanson

H.T. Odum

eMergy Analysis

Life Cycle Analysis

Penn State Indicators Report

The Mueller Building Report

Chris Uhl

Limits to Growth

Donella Meadows

Systems Models


State of the World:


Living Planet Index

WorldWatch Institute

World Resources Research Institute

Reasons for:     freshwater depletion

                        salinization of soil

                        loss of soil health/fertility

                        soil erosion

                        desertification of soils

                        loss of microbial life in soil

                        loss of plant & animal biodiversity

                        species extinctions

                        loss of farmers

                        fragility of our energy supply

                        fragility of our rubber supply

                        dying coral reefs

                        measurable shifts in earth’s rotation

                        acid rain

                        global climate change

                        rising of sea levels

Clive Ponting’s A Green History of the World

G. Tyler Miller Sustaining the Earth, 3rd Edition

Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, The Story of B, and My Ishmael

Thom Hartmans’s The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

The Nemesis Effect

The Gaia Hypothesis

Lynn Margulis

James Lovelock


Sustainable Agriculture:


Perennial Polyculture

Natural Systems Agriculture

The Land Institute

Wes Jackson

“Do-nothing” agriculture

Masanobu Fukuoka

The One Straw Revolution

Biodynamic Agriculture

Rudolph Steiner

Biointensive Mini-farming

How to Grow More Vegetables...

Hexagonal close-packed planting


Compost/Cover crops

Crop Rotations

Cold Frames

High/low Tunnels

Root Cellars

Ecology Action

John Jeavons

Alan Chadwick

Eliot Coleman

Four Season Harvest

Permaculture Design

Bill Mollison

Stacking Functions

Zone/Sector Analysis

Native Plants

Organic Matter

Trace Minerals

Compost Pile

Rodale Research Institute

Global Food Security

Biotech/cloned animals/plants for food


Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) or Bovine Somatotrophin (BST)

Integrated Animal Agriculture

Joel Salatin / Polyface Farm


Living Technologies


Living Machines

Constructed Wetlands

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic aquaculture


Ecological Fluidized Bed (EFB)

UV sterilizer





Ocean Arks International

John Todd

Composting Toilets


Joseph C. Jenkins


Green Building


Plastered Strawbale

Rammed Earth


Michael Reynolds


Light Clay construction


Buckminster Fuller

Tensegrity Dome

Geodesic Dome

Michael Oehler’s Underground House Design


uphill patio

Royer Foyer

Malcolm Wells’ Underground Home Design

Living Roofs


Cordwood construction




PV panel

Solar Cell


Nickel-cadmium batteries

Nickel-metal hydride batteries

Batter bank

Passive Solar

Solar Slab

Solar Thermosiphon

Green Mountain Homes

James Kachadorian

The Rocky Mountain Institute

Amory and Hunter Lovins

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen from blue-green algae


Wind power generation


Wood Gasification






Polyicynene (spray foam) Insulation

Closed-loop technologies/manufacturing

Bill McDonough (WASTE=FOOD)


Sustainable Community Design




The Global EcoVillage Network

Village Homes, Davis, CA

Cobb Hill CoHousing

Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language


Sustainable Living - Examples


Helen and Scott Nearing:  Homesteading

The Penan Tribe in the jungles of Borneo (ethnobotanist Wade Davis’ books)

Tikopia (book by Raymond Firth)

The Real Tribe People in the Australian Outback (Marlo Morgan, Mutant Message)

The New Pioneers

Gaviotas:  A Village to Reinvent the World


Personal Health


Andrew Weil - Integrative Medicine

Ann Wigmore - Living Foods

QiGong / Bigu



Sacred Spaces

The Yoga of Nutrition

Pranic Healing