The students in one environmental studies class spent last quarter trying to make a positive impact on the world and their grade point averages.

Environmental Studies 106, “Critical Thinking about Human-Environment Problems and Solutions,” taught by professor William Freudenberg again this quarter, focuses on theories and methods used to identify ecological problems and look for solutions. Students taking the course participate in a group project that analyzes a specific environmental problem, come up with ideas of how to reduce the problem and find out if it works.

In the five years the class has been taught, students have taken on projects to improve the environment on a large scale. Many students in the class last quarter chose to tackle local problems because it is easier to improve local environmental concerns than taking on national or global problems.

Students chose many different topics for their projects, ranging from cleaning the local beaches and improving parking options on campus to getting people to buy reusable cups at Blenders rather than throw away a Styrofoam cup every time they buy a drink.

“Almost all environmental problems are due to humans, and the solutions are up to humans also. When this course was started, it was largely a philosophy class. The students would read two sides of an argument about an environmental issue, have to pick one and tell why. That was it,” Freudenberg said. “Now, the course is one in critical thinking. It’s not about abstract ideas, it makes them get real world experience.”

Freudenberg said he is not sure what responses students received from the parties their ideas concern, but he said he would be surprised if they do not receive positive feedback since the ideas were realistic.