Introduction to Environmental Studies: Waste

Fall Open
Class Standing
Eric Stein
Pauline Yu

This program is about waste: how waste cycles through environments, who is sickened by it, what is valuable and what is not, and what waste means to those who live with and around it. Our interdisciplinary studies of waste will use approaches in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to understand waste as a complex problem and consider a range of applied solutions. The scientific, social and cultural dimensions of waste as an idea and as a phenomena will be addressed.

In the fall quarter of the program we will focus on the fundamental concepts surrounding biological waste (human and animal) – especially excrement – considering physiology and metabolism at the organism level, to elemental and ecological cycling at the planetary level. We will spend much of the quarter studying biological waste as a problem in public health, urban planning, parasitology, and microbiology, also paying attention to the cultural dimensions of pollution and disgust. Students should be prepared to confront and question their own "yuck" thresholds as we peek into sewers, observe wastewater treatment, and analyze parasites and “germs”. Students successfully completing studies in fall quarter can anticipate earning credits in Environmental Science Laboratory (4), Topics in Public Health: Sanitation (4), Topics in Ecology: Decomposition (4), and Cultural Anthropology (4).

As we broaden our studies in winter quarter, our program will turn our attention to industrial, consumer, and toxic wastes, with particular attention to questions of environmental justice. Topics will span the range of urban vs rural planning in environmental justice; legal and political dimensions of waste; garbage colonialism; and the ecological, chemical and biological imprints of waste from the developed world globally. Washington State, and relevant historical archives, will serve as a focus for attention on the policies and outcomes that have shaped our relationships with waste. Students successfully completing studies in winter quarter can anticipate earning credits in Environmental Science Laboratory (4), Topics in Environmental Science: waste and toxicology (4), Environmental Justice (4), and Social Science Methodology: Archival Research (4).

Throughout the two quarters students can expect to complete approximately 3 hours of labs and 2 hours of seminar per week; write weekly seminar papers and longer interdisciplinary synthesis essays; take occasional quizzes; collaborate on major research projects; and spend substantial time on field trips outside the classroom.

This program is coordinated with Greener Foundations for first-year students. Greener Foundations is Evergreen’s in-person 2-quarter introductory student success course sequence, which provides first-year students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive at Evergreen. Student joining in winter quarter that are expected to take Greener Foundations will be prompted to register for a 2-credit Greener Foundations course in addition to this 14-credit program during registration. Students that took Greener Foundations in fall quarter will be automatically registered in winter quarter to complete the 4-credits of Greener Foundations.


Course Reference Numbers
So - Sr (16): 20203
Fr (14): 20204

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10054
Fr (14): 10057

Academic Details

Studies or careers in Environmental Studies, Public Health, Social Sciences


Fall: $330 covers an overnight field trip ($280), including a guppyfriend bag, and a required lab fee ($50). 


For continuing students: $50 total fee covers required lab fee.

For new students: $85 total fee covers required lab fee ($50) and guppyfriend bag ($35).




In Person (F)
In Person (W)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
SEM 2 E1107 - Workshop