The flow of the course is defined by stages of the one comprehensive writing assignment. The writing process is focused on through multiple drafts and peer review.
The course starts with students creating a statement of personal environmental ethics, values and goals that forms the framework of the design project. Defining terms like sustainability, resilience, and stewardship gives a foundation to the discussion of how our views are shaped by our social identities and experiences. Influences such as religion and schooling are reflected on.
The classes progress from personal beliefs to more concrete concepts through the Ideal Community Project. Looking from a solutions perspective, many ways of meeting modern human needs including food, clean water, housing, transportation, recreation, community, and earning money are examined. Practices ranging from simple living to high-tech ways of reducing detrimental social and environmental impacts are examined. Ecological Footprinting is is used as a tool to quantify and compare options. Community cooperation and social empowerment theories are explored as well as specific technologies. Successful policies, practices and inspiring people from around the world are highlighted as good examples. Acknowledging barriers to the adoption of these ideas and practices is unfortunately necessary.
Meanwhile, an action project and a couple field trips provide experiential involvement.
Finally, an issue letter to government representatives focuses on solutions at the policy level. Fundamental scientific principles from ecology and chemistry are used to understand world and regional environmental problems. Topics will come from the most important ideas for change identified in the Ideal Community Project.