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 clusters that encompass a comprehensive list of transversal issues in sustainability in alignment with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our five Research and Knowledge Clusters include: sustainability education, the most long-term area focus at EFI; climate change, which has become the defining issue of our time; analysis and development of sustainability policy, a cluster stemming from EFI’s long-term interest in decision-making processes to achieve sustainable societies; sustainable economies, which is  a novel interest at EFI that brings together our new green skills education program and our long-term interest in the economic sphere in sustainability; and a sustainability and health cluster, 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 form a weaving thread that orients and guides EFI’s work, these include: water, decision-making, culture, life on land, science and technology, and public awareness.

Our team is committed to contributing to global efforts to achieve a sustainable future through the Agenda 2030 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) Six Transformations to Achieve the SDG’s. These, along with the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), serve as guidance and inspiration for our research and educational initiatives.

Sustainability Education

Since its creation in 1970, education for sustainability has been the central focus of EFI. In the mid-2000’s EFI collaborated with UNEP and UNESCO to develop curricula for sustainable societies in Africa. Since 2010 EFI’s educational materials have been used in college-level courses in Virginia and used online by users around the world. In 2020 EFI has launched a new program to develop Inclusive Green Economy curricula to meet the educational demands of the future sustainable citizen.

Climate Change

The defining issue of our generation, climate change has become the central concern of EFI’s students, advisors, research fellows, and supporters. Currently we are seeking to develop 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 are reflected in our approach to sustainability policy and education. We are currently developing policy research and tools at two levels: globally, to help concerned citizens access, understand, and adapt international policy frameworks and analyses; in Latin America, in particular in areas related to water, health, inclusion, and sustainable economies.

Sustainable Economies

At EFI, we recognize that a sustainable future entails fundamental changes in economic thinking among sectors and individuals. Our approach to sustainable economies is not solely focused on macro-economic indicators, we take a holistic view that includes analysis of individual, small enterprise, and societal-level economic activities. Currently we have expertise and are developing analysis and educational tools based on the methodologies and concepts used in Life Cycle Analysis and Cleaner Production, Industrial Ecology, Inclusive Green Economy, and Circular Economy. We have strong expertise in analysis of water, carbon, and environmental footprints at all scales of economic output.

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Health & Sustainability

Health, culture, inclusion, and social policy are all part of a whole in EFI’s approach to understanding the challenges posed by climate change to health across the globe. Out team members have expertise and interests in global public health; sociocultural approaches to understanding health and climate; water, health, and sanitation; and adaptation and mitigation strategies in the context of climate change. We are currently conducting research on climate change and health issues in Central America.

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