Minor in Environment and Sustainability

The Environment and Sustainability Minor (E&S Minor) provides an integrative foundation in the scientific, engineering, social, and humanistic dimensions of humanity’s interaction with the environment. The minor will equip students with knowledge and experience that will make it possible to understand, diagnose, and develop solutions to complex problems faced by society as it strives for social and environmental sustainability. Students who complete the minor will be prepared to apply the principles of sustainability in diverse workplace contexts, including business/industry, government, civil society, and academia.

The E&S Minor combines a wide range of fields of inquiry to directly engage environmental and climate challenges facing ecosystems and populations around the globe. Fundamentally, these challenges affect both human systems and the earth systems on which we depend: people and the planet. Planetary challenges include global changes in the climate and oceans, degradation to both biodiversity and material resources, and fundamental transformations of biogeochemical cycles. Challenges facing society include (but are not limited to) widespread and intransigent environmental injustice, expanding urban and agricultural pollution, technological and economic lock-in of infrastructure and all manner of production and consumption systems, and a global dependence on carbon intensive energy.

The minor prioritizes integrative, interdisciplinary learning that is critical for effectively understanding and addressing the complexities of environmental issues today and in the future, and is structured on four pillars: Earth Systems and Climate Science, Environmental Governance, Environmental Histories and Cultures, and Engineering for Sustainability.

The E&S Minor is comprised of five subjects (a minimum of 57 units). Students take two core subjects that address the fundamentals of each pillar, and select a minimum of 36 units of elective subjects to craft a program that reflects their own particular interests. In consultation with the minor advisor, students may either concentrate in one of the four pillars or explore various areas by selecting classes from multiple pillars.

Minor Requirements

Core Curriculum
12.387[J]People and the Planet: Environmental Governance and Science9
11.004[J]People and the Planet: Environmental Histories and Engineering12
In consultation with the minor advisor, select a minimum of 36 units from the list of electives36-39
Total Units57-60


Earth Systems and Climate Science
1.018[J]Fundamentals of Ecology12
1.078Soil and Environmental Biogeochemistry12
1.080Environmental Chemistry12
1.089Earth's Microbiomes12
2.981New England Coastal Ecology3
3.982The Ancient Andean World 19
8.21Physics of Energy12
12.000Solving Complex Problems 29
12.001Introduction to Geology12
12.002Introduction to Geophysics and Planetary Science12
12.003Introduction to Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics12
12.007Geobiology: History of Life on Earth12
12.021Earth Science, Energy, and the Environment12
12.104Geochemistry of Natural Waters12
12.170Essentials of Geology12
12.174Biogeochemistry of Natural and Perturbed Systems12
12.307Weather and Climate Laboratory12
12.335Experimental Atmospheric Chemistry12
12.349Mechanisms and Models of the Global Carbon Cycle12
12.385Science, Politics, and Environmental Policy 39
20.106[J]Applied Microbiology12
Environmental Governance
1.801[J]Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics: Pollution Prevention and Control12
1.802[J]Regulation of Chemicals, Radiation, and Biotechnology12
11.123Big Plans and Mega-Urban Landscapes9
11.142Geography of the Global Economy12
11.148Environmental Justice: Law and Policy12
11.162Politics of Energy and the Environment12
11.169Global Climate Policy and Sustainability12
12.385Science, Politics, and Environmental Policy 49
15.2191[J]Global Energy: Politics, Markets, and Policy12
17.181Sustainability: Political Economy, Science, and Policy12
17.309[J]Science, Technology, and Public Policy12
17.411Globalization, Migration, and International Relations12
21A.410Environmental Struggles12
EC.701[J]D-Lab: Development 1, 212
EC.711[J]Introduction to Energy in Global Development 212
EC.715D-Lab: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 1, 212
EC.716D-Lab: Waste 29
EC.733[J]D-Lab: Supply Chains 212
IDS.062[J]Global Environmental Negotiations6
Environmental Histories and Cultures
1.016[J]Design for Complex Environmental Issues: Building Solutions and Communicating Ideas 29
3.094Materials in Human Experience 29
3.982The Ancient Andean World 49
3.983Ancient Mesoamerican Civilization 29
4.622Islamic Gardens and Geographies12
10.04A Philosophical History of Energy12
10.05Foundational Analyses of Problems in Energy and the Environment12
11.016[J]The Once and Future City12
17.051Ethics of Energy Policy12
24.03Good Food: The Ethics and Politics of Food12
21A.155Food, Culture, and Politics12
21A.303[J]The Anthropology of Biology12
21G.417Cultural Geographies of Germany: Nature, Culture, and Politics12
21H.185[J]Environment and History12
21H.380[J]People and Other Animals12
21H.383Technology and the Global Economy, 1000-200012
21L.449The Wilds of Literature12
21W.012Writing and Rhetoric: Food for Thought12
21W.036Science Writing and New Media: Writing and the Environment12
21W.775Writing about Nature and Environmental Issues12
EC.701[J]D-Lab: Development 2, 312
EC.715D-Lab: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2, 312
SP.360Terrascope Radio12
STS.009Evolution and Society12
STS.032Energy, Environment, and Society12
Engineering for Sustainability
1.007Big Engineering: Small Solutions with a Large Impact6
1.016[J]Design for Complex Environmental Issues: Building Solutions and Communicating Ideas 19
2.00AFundamentals of Engineering Design: Explore Space, Sea and Earth9
2.627Fundamentals of Photovoltaics12
3.094Materials in Human Experience 19
3.983Ancient Mesoamerican Civilization 19
4.401Environmental Technologies in Buildings12
4.411[J]D-Lab Schools: Building Technology Laboratory12
4.432Modeling Urban Energy Flows for Sustainable Cities and Neighborhoods12
12.000Solving Complex Problems 49
12.213Alternate Energy Sources6
22.033Nuclear Systems Design Project15
22.04[J]Social Problems of Nuclear Energy12
22.081[J]Introduction to Sustainable Energy12
EC.701[J]D-Lab: Development 1, 312
EC.711[J]Introduction to Energy in Global Development 312
EC.715D-Lab: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 1, 312
EC.716D-Lab: Waste 39
EC.719D-Lab: Water, Climate Change, and Health12
EC.724D-Lab: Smallholder Agriculture9
EC.733[J]D-Lab: Supply Chains 312

 Subject also counts toward Environmental Histories and Cultures.


 Subject also counts toward Engineering for Sustainability.


 Subject also counts toward Environmental Governance.


 Subject also counts toward Earth Systems and Climate Science.

A minimum of four subjects (or 48 units) taken for the Environment and Sustainability minor cannot also count toward a student's major or other minor.

For more information about the minor and about potential subject substitutions, contact Sarah Meyers, Education Program Manager, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), Room E70-1201, 617-715-2606, or visit the ESI's education website.