An Environmental Pledge Assignment: Connecting Classroom Lessons to Behavioral Changes with Calculable Impacts

Anne Marie Zimeri


Since January 2008, the Environmental Health Science Pledge Project has made an impact on the local and state environments of the United States. More than six hundred students have participated as part of an upper-level introduction to environmental health science course in which they pledged to spend one week committed to being as environmentally sustainable as possible with a special focus of their choice (water conservation, reduction in meat consumption, fossil fuel use, and the use of plastics among others). Students collected environmental impact and ecological footprint data from a typical week and compared that to data obtained during a pledge week. Class data was collected and pooled at the semester end so that students could see the impact they made as a group. Students are also asked to calculate the impact they would have had if they continued their behavioral changes in part or wholly over time. Many students committed to making permanent lifestyle changes as a result of this experience. Here, data that show the impact a class can make over the course of one semester is presented in addition to post-class survey data that shows that the majority of the students who participated in the environmental pledge assignment continued to modify their behavior after the semester ended.


environmental assignment, sustainability, calculating impacts, environmental education

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