Between September and December 2014, the first group of students from the University Colorado Denver successfully participated in the newly established semester abroad program "Sustainability in Berlin." In addition to two courses on "Environmental Politics and Policy" taught by Prof. Christoph Stefes and a course on "The Global Ecological Crisis" taught by Stephanie Wunder from Ecologic Institute, the students experienced firsthand what sustainability means in practice. During field trips to Berlin, Dessau (Germany), and Copenhagen (Denmark) they learned about alternative concepts for transport, energy, food waste, diets, housing, and climate change adaptation.
The most attractive part for the majority of students were the field trips, that provided a great illustration of what they learned in theory in class. While a scavenger hunt through Berlin they learned about urban gardening, food waste and packaging reduction initiatives, urban development in Kreuzberg and sustainable diets. They learned about waste separation and water management at Potsdamer Platz and tried to get a new perspective on energy policy at the art exhibition "EnergyTransitionArt".
In Dessau students learned more about German environmental policy. They visited the exceptional and energy efficient architecture of the newly built German Federal Environmental Agency, were able to see how the Bauhaus blended modernism with sustainable and green design and enjoyed a guided bike tour through the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve.
The highlight was an excursion to Copenhagen. In 2014 the city received the "European Green Capital" award. In various field trips e.g. to Christiania, Nordhavn and Skt. Kjelds Quarter the students learned about Copenhagen’s mobility concept, sustainable building, climate mitigation and adaptation as well as citizens participation in the decision making process. All trips were done by bike which allowed all to experience the great biking infrastructure of Copenhagen. And even dinner was an exceptional experience, both at Rub&Stub - a restaurant that cooks with volunteers using surplus food that would otherwise have been wasted – and at Copenhagens streetfood market.
The students returned home with a lot of new knowledge and inspiration. This also included that they envisaged some changes in their own lives – ranging from getting rid of their oversize old fridge, to become a vegetarian or start a local "food cooperative".
The program will go into its second year in September 2015.