Business & Society

'Communicating Sustainability' Students get Hands-on Experience

Let's improve our winter air quality and purchase local products. Students in USU’s 'Communicating Sustainability’ course worked to place ‘Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free’ signs in the parking lot of Logan’s Natural Grocers store. They also developed ideas to promote locally grown or produce food items sold at the store.

Utah State University student Sarah Woodbury agrees that sustainability is a hot topic in today’s culture. In the past, that word — sustainability — brought to mind a green recycling symbol or the plight of the polar bears.

But today, things are different, Woodbury said. From the farmer down the road to the poor college students to corporate giants, many are rapidly adopting sustainable practices as a healthier way to live.

As a part of this growing movement, Natural Grocers in Logan and a group of USU students are making the idea tangible for those living in Cache Valley.

Woodbury and 17 other USU students are enrolled in an upper level course — Communicating Sustainability — taught at USU by Roslynn Brain, a faculty member at the Moab campus. It’s through that course that they are bringing the ideas of sustainability to the community.

“Communicating sustainability is a service learning course,” Brain said. “Students learn content, both online and through classes, then apply class content by working with a community partner, helping that partner improve its environmental footprint.”

The course is offered through USU’s Department of Environment and Society in the Quinney College of Natural Resources. It is offered via broadcast and is one of two core courses in USU’s new sustainable systems academic minor.

Woodbury, along with fellow USU students Emily Blake and Jake Oakden, worked with Natural Grocers store manager Steven Goebel to further healthier lives in Logan through two objectives: reducing vehicle idling and purchasing locally produced foods.

Most people are familiar with air quality issues in Cache Valley, especially during winter months. To address this issue, Logan City has made signs available to companies that ask drivers to “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free.” The USU students worked to install these signs in the parking area at Natural Grocers. Additionally, Al’s Sporting Goods located in the same shopping complex, is expected to join the movement, Woodbury said.

Brain said students choose projects on their own and she offers suggestions and guidance. She does approve project partners and the projects often reflect students’ anticipated career paths and passions.

“If a course can’t help prepare students for that [career path], then it has less value in my eyes,” she said.

In addition to the “no idling” signs outside Natural Grocers, efforts were made to identify locally produced food items inside the store, Woodbury said, including in-store demonstration tables and easy-to-spot labels.

“With less vehicle idling, more consumption of local foods and community efforts like these, we can expect to see some changes,” Woodbury said. “Soon, we can be breathing crystal-clear air, venturing outdoors during the long winter months and eating food our neighbors made.”

Past student projects include working with restaurants, city governments, county jails and others across the state.

“It’s amazing to watch what they can accomplish in the course of a semester,” Brain said. “Sustainability is so often communicated in terms of loss — ‘take shorter showers’ or ‘drive less’ — I teach students that there is actually an amazing amount that can be gained by living a sustainable lifestyle and these gains can be communicated in a way that gets others excited about sustainability.”

Contact: Roslyn Brain, 435-797-5122,

Contact: Sarah Woodbury,

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