Our Approach

At EFI we seek to understand global sustainability issues, recognize their interrelationships, and integrate and apply adaptation strategies. EFI’s education programs use a systems-thinking methodology that combines an examination of the most critical social, economic, and environmental issues that are driving global change.

Currently, our work is concentrated in five multi-disciplinary research and knowledge clusters that encompass a comprehensive list of issues in sustainability in alignment with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our five research and knowledge clusters include: 

Sustainability education–the most long-term area of focus and work at EFI.

Climate change–addresses one of the most defining and urgent issues of our time.

Sustainability policy–a cluster stemming from EFI’s long-term interest in decision-making processes to achieve sustainable societies.

Sustainable economies–brings together our new green skills education program and our long-term interest in the economic sphere in sustainability; and

Sustainability and health–which uses a socio-cultural lens to evaluate the impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities.

Various cross disciplinary sustainability issues, some inherited from EFI’s legacy framework of twenty-five issues, and some based on the interests and skills of a new generation of scholars, practitioners, and students currently involved with EFI cut a transversal path through the five research and knowledge clusters and guide our work, these include: water, decision-making, culture, life on land, science and technology, and public awareness.

The team at EFI is committed to achieving a sustainable future through contributing to global efforts including: UN Agenda 2030; Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Paris Agreement; and the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s Six Transformations to Achieve the SDG’s. Along with the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), these initiatives serve as key guidance and inspiration for EFI’s current and forthcoming research and educational initiatives.

Sustainability Education

Since EFI’s creation in 1970, sustainability education has been the main focus of our work. In the mid-2000’s EFI collaborated with UNEP and UNESCO to develop sustainability curricula for universities across Africa. Since then, EFI’s educational materials have been used in college-level courses in Virginia and online by users around the world. In 2020 EFI launched a new program to develop green skills curricula to help meet the educational demands for sustainability education of professionals and concerned citizens in the US and Latin America.

Climate Change

The defining issue of our generation, climate change has become a central concern of EFI’s students, advisors, research fellows, and supporters. EFI is currently developing educational and policy tools that will support the work of citizens seeking to apply adaptation and mitigation strategies to this global threat. Our team has particular expertise in the areas of climatology and water, sustainable economic processes, energy, sustainability policy, and education.

Sustainability Policy

EFI’s long-term commitment to exploring decision-making, citizen awareness, and cross-cultural strategies for a sustainable future is reflected in our approach toward sustainability policy and education. We are developing policy research and tools at two levels: globally, to help citizens access, understand, and adapt international policy frameworks and analyses; and in Latin America, with a particular focus on  water, health, inclusion, and sustainable economies.

Sustainable Economies

At EFI, we recognize that building a sustainable future requires fundamental changes in economic thinking. Our approach to creating sustainable economies does not solely focus on macro-economic indicators; we take a holistic view that includes analyses of individual, small enterprise, and societal-level economic activities. We are developing analysis and educational tools based on the methodologies and concepts used in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), cleaner production, industrial ecology, inclusive green economy, and circular economy. We have expertise in the analysis of water, carbon, and environmental footprints at all scales of economic output.


Sustainability & Health

Health, culture, inclusion, and social policy all form part of a whole in EFI’s approach to understanding the challenges and risks posed by climate change to global health. Our team members are highly skilled and focused on global public health, sociocultural approaches to understanding health and climate; water, health, and sanitation (WASH), and adaptation and mitigation strategies in the context of climate change. We are currently conducting research on climate change and health issues in the US and Latin America.

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