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  • Discipline(s): General Science
  • Available: Fall Semester 2023 Spring Semester 2024
  • Course Type: Courses with Service Learning
  • Taught in: English
  • Course Fee: $90.00
  • Credits: 3
  • Course Travel: No

Green Cities: A Sustainable Future

Course Description

For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s people live in cities. Cities are major contributors to emissions and resource consumption but also centers of technological and socio-cultural innovation. Cities can be at the forefront of actions for sustainable development – working with nature instead of against it.

This class will review concepts of sustainable urbanism and the systems that comprise it: Energy, Waste, Water, Food, Transportation and Open Space. Our main focus, which reflects its methodology, is based on two premises: (a) the role and importance of Place as an impediment or facilitator of urban sustainability and (b) the fundamental part played by citizens’ participation in the commitment to sustainable policies and practice. Through these perspectives, students will comprehend the principles informing sustainable urban planning and the socio-cultural, economic, and political challenges faced by its promoters. Our approach is both global and local – we will use Perugia as our case-context while considering broader issues and analyzing case-studies both in Europe and all over the world , to compare approaches, goals, and policies.

The course will be carried out with the collaboration of the College of Agriculture of the University of Perugia (DSA3), and will focus on the various roles played by the vegetation within the context of a densifying city.

Starting from the definition of the ecosystem services provided by “nature in the city,” the course will approach the ever-transforming context of Nature-Based Solutions as a framework of reference and as an opportunity to observe specific case studies, as well as to apply this approach to practical interventions in the city of Perugia.


The “Orto Sole” Environmental Restoration Project

Our main project site will be the former urban community garden now managed by Umbra Institute, named Orto Sole (the “Sun Garden”), just a few minutes from Perugia’s main piazza in Via delle Prome. In Orto Sole, students will have the chance to engage with local partners and peers, and apply what they have learned to a concrete project, to learn and practice strategies for transforming urban open spaces into more resilient places, while creating more friendly, sustainable, and inclusive communities and cities.


Learning Outcomes and Assessment Measures 

Below are the course’s learning outcomes, followed by the methods that will be used to assess students’ achievement for each learning outcome. By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • identify and recall the principles informing sustainability and sustainable urban development, and the socio-cultural, economic, and political challenges faced by its promoters; compare sustainable urban systems all over the world through the analysis of case studies for their effectiveness in implementing policies, technologies, and organizational models that support urban sustainability (Class Participation including Online Quizzes & Movie vision)
  • reflect upon the relationships between people, places, values, and actions in building sustainability and integrate experiential activities with classroom learning to communicate them using systematic, public-facing, and ethical scholarship with twenty-first-century research and communication tools (Class Blog-Journal and Midterm Paper);
  • recognize and apply different sustainable development approaches including green-blue infrastructure, nature-based solutions, and community participation methods in real-world settings. The latter include methods for interacting with peers, local partners and other stakeholders, and basic design, construction, and process skills (Field project);
  • distinguish key terms, concepts, and principles related to sustainability and nature-based solutions in urban environments and the analysis of case studies. (Online Quizzes and Final Test, Final Presentation).


Course Materials

The only required book is Steven Cohen’s The Sustainable City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017). The course’s Moodle site is the primary location for readings and assignments. The reference number is in the course schedule below with the due date indicated for each.

Course Fee
$90.00 – Includes one meal, gardening materials, visits to a beekeeper in Perugia.