Certificate in Environmental Sustainability

Learn how to reduce environmental degradation and repair damaged environments. Build a foundation that helps you develop your career, and improve the environment.

Course CodeVEN013
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

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Distance Learning Course -Sustainability Certificate


Students who study this course benefit from the unique blend of disciplines that will provide them with the skills necessary to work in the field of environmental sustainability.    This course provides a foundation in environmental ecology and conservation as well as an understanding of sustainability in relation to water, agriculture, development and energy. 

Environmental Sustainability has become a major concern in recent decades, now being a guiding principle for government, business, industry and individuals all over the world.   The term 'Ecologically Sustainable Development' has been coined to represent the concept of making use of our environment in a way that allows us to meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Sustainability experts are thus likely to be in high demand over coming decades as resources become increasingly scarce and the need to manage the effects of environmental degradation increases.



Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Certificate in Environmental Sustainability.
 Alternative Energy VSS102
 Introduction To Ecology BEN101
 Permaculture Systems BHT201
 Water Conservation And Management BEN302
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 11 modules.
 Carpentry BSS100
 Mud Brick Construction ASS103
 Soil Management (Agriculture) BAG103
 Soil Management (Horticulture) BHT105
 Environmental Waste Management BEN202
 Healthy Buildings I (Building Construction & Health) BSS200
 Sustainable Agriculture BAG215
 Biophilic Landscaping BHT343
 Environmental Assessment BEN301
 Environmental Chemistry BSC306
 Healthy Buildings II (Building Environment & Health) BSS300

Note that each module in the Certificate in Environmental Sustainability is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Outlines of Selected Modules


Introduction to Ecology

1. Ecosystems & Populations

  • components of an ecosystem
  • biomes
  • detrital and grazing webs
  • trophic levels within a food web
  • energy flow through an ecosystem

2. The development of life

  • life spans
  • natural selection
  • genetics
  • theories of evolution

3. Animals, Parasites and Endangered Species

  • comparative anatomy
  • animal niches within an ecosystem
  • parasites
  • animal and human interactions and coexistence

4. Fungi, Tundra, Rain forests and Marshlands

  • physiology
  • anatomy
  • classification
  • ecology
  • location and
  • climate

5. Mountains, Rivers and Desert

  • Formation eg. erosion, volcanic formation of mountains
  • Ecology
  • Importance

6. Shallow Waters

  • shore lines
  • coral reefs
  • intermediate reefs
  • estuaries
  • sandy shores

7. Ecological Problems

  • Global Warming
  • The Role of the Ozone Layer
  • The effects of Poisons and Waste Materials

Sustainable Agriculture

1. Introduction

  • Scope
  • Nature of Sustainability
  • Whole Farming
  • Hydroponics

2. Soil

  • Soil Quality
  • Growing Media
  • Problems with Soils
  • Water Erosion
  • Wind Erosion
  • Salinity
  • Soil Acidification

3. Water

  • Water Storage
  • Livestock Requirements
  • Water Quality
  • Water Saving Measures
  • Recycling Water
  • Swales and Keylines

4. Land Care

  • Weeds
  • Weed Control
  • Grazing
  • Tree Management
  • Plantations
  • Windbreaks

5. Financial Sustainability

  • Economic Principles
  • Scale of Economics
  • Financial Planning
  • Value Adding
  • Financial Records

6. Broad Management Strategies

  • Towards better planning
  • Analysing the Marketplace and Industry
  • Production

7. Enterprise Selection & Management: Plants

  • Crop Management
  • Hay and Silage
  • Considering New Crops
  • Site Preparation
  • Production

8. Enterprise Selection & Management: Animals

  • Choosing the right species eg. deer, alpacas, goats, emu
  • Aquaculture
  • Intensive Production

Water Conservation and Management

1. Introduction to Water Conservation

  • the water cycle
  • effective rainfall
  • evaporation
  • importance of water
  • water sources and storage
  • water uses
  • water conservation

2. Water conservation at home

  • in Australia, UK and US
  • how we can save water at home
  • water saving equipment

3. Water conservation in the workplace

  • general principles
  • implementing water saving strategies
  • appliances for saving water
  • waterwise industry
  • waterwise workplace

4. Water Management

  • maintaining water quality
  • salinity
  • chemical contamination
  • controlling use and quality of water
  • testing water quality
  • minimising water loss
  • water audits
  • water management plans

5. Water conservation in Primary Production I

  • strategies for water conservation
  • water saving measures
  • waterwise landscaping
  • waterwise irrigation systems
  • equipments, structures and tools to save water

6. Water conservation in Primary Production 2

  • use of water in primary production
  • methods of water storage
  • rainwater collection and storage
  • bore water
  • farm dams
  • farm water requirements
  • contamination and disposal of water
  • reduce/reuse/recycle
  • irrigation system design
  • surface/flood irrigation
  • sprinkler irrigation
  • swales and keylines
  • maintenance procedures and scheduling

7. Water conservation in the Services Industry

  • Use of water in service industry
  • contamination and disposal of water
  • reduce/reuse/recycle
  • technologies available

8. Water conservation and Health

  • water use in the Health Industry
  • Laboratories, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Clinics, Research
  • characteristics of water use in health industry
  • water efficiency

9. Water conservation in other industry sectors

  • use of water in manufacturing, construction and heavy industries
  • examples of water use including cooling towers, ponds, dust control
  • cleaner production
  • benefits of cleaner production

10. Water treatment, reuse and recycling

  • water sanitation
  • water reuse and recycling
  • waste water and sewage treatment
  • classification and composition of waste water
  • waste water treatment
  • constructed wetlands
  • plants for wetlands
  • treating saline water
  • tastes and odours

Permaculture Systems

1. Permaculture Principles

  • nature and scope
  • function
  • diversity
  • sustainability
  • organics
  • composting
  • crop rotation
  • pests and disease prevention and management

2. Design Principles

  • ecosystems
  • abiotic and biotic components
  • understanding climate
  • minimising water needs
  • irrigation
  • arid landscapes
  • rainfall
  • succession

3. Zone and Sector Planning

  • Five standard zones
  • landscape profiles
  • site selection
  • pre-planning
  • concept design
  • recording site and locality details

4. Permaculture Techniques

  • Forests and Trees
  • Establishment
  • Fire-resistant plants
  • water body design
  • water containment

5. Animals in Permaculture

  • location for animals
  • functions of animals in permaculture systems
  • bees, poultry, pigs and cattle
  • grazing animals
  • fencing
  • water supply for animals
  • shelter for animals
  • birds
  • aquaculture - scope, production systems, species and management
  • harvesting fish

6. Plants in Permaculture

  • growing organic vegetables
  • physical characteristics of soil
  • chemical characteristics of soil
  • soil nutrition and fertilisation
  • nitrogen fixation
  • identifying nutrient deficiencies
  • mulch types
  • weed management
  • plant culture
  • pest and disease management

7. Appropriate Techniques

  • solar energy
  • wind energy
  • methane
  • biofuel power
  • composting toilets
  • energy efficent housing
  • living fences
  • water recycling
  • alternative energy and management
  • waste disposal
  • biological filtration systems
  • waster water
  • conservation and recycling
  • solar energy
  • solar greenhouses

8. Preparing a plan

  • scope, nature and methods
  • designing for natural disasters
  • drawing a plan
  • developing the final design

Healthy Buildings I (Building Construction and Health)

1. Introduction to Building Biology

  • Building Biology
  • Environmental considerations when building
  • Clean interiors
  • Attitudes and trends towards building biology

2. Building Materials

  • dangerous building materials
  • asbestos
  • paints and finishes
  • cladding, timber, weatherboard
  • health concerns with initial installation

3. Construction

  • Roofs
  • Floors
  • Pests in Buildings
  • Hygiene
  • Building design factors

4. Services

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Waste Disposal
  • Temperature Control

5. Temperature: Heating and Cooling

  • Heating and Cooling methods
  • Energy conservation
  • Solar energy
  • Impact of building design on interior building temperature

6. The Internal Environment: Ventilation

  • Air Filtration
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Interior Ventilation Characteristics
  • Health Impacts of Air Conditioning

7. Light

  • Internal light in buildings
  • Natural light
  • Combustion systems
  • Electric Lights
  • Location of light sources
  • Impact of building design on interior light

8. Acoustics

  • Impact of construction on how noise is absorbed
  • Echo and Clarity
  • Management of noise in buildings

9. Ergonomic Considerations

  • Relationship between human body and surroundings
  • Ergonomics
  • How ergonomics impact productivity

10. Psychological Considerations

  • Psychological Considerations of building design
  • Colour
  • Psychology of building interiors

Alternative Energy

1. Introduction: The Problems and the Energy Sources
  • Scope and Nature
  • Terminology
  • Energy consumption throughout history
  • Climate Change
  • Energy units
  • Problems with Fossil Fuels
  • Problems with other energy sources

2. Understanding Energy

  • Terminology
  • Understanding Electricity
  • Conductors and Non-conductors
  • Measuring Electricity
  • Ohm's Law
  • Kirchoff's Law
  • Circuits
  • Power
  • Magnetism
  • Electromagnetism and Solenoids
  • Inductors
  • Lenz's Law

3. Generating Electricity

  • Turbines
  • Generators
  • Fuel Cells
  • Solar Energy
  • Positioning Solar Cells
  • Small scale Solar
  • Future developments in Solar
  • Wind Power
  • Large and Small Scale Wind System Design
  • Geothermal energy
  • Steam Power Plants - dry and flash
  • Binary Cycle Power Plants
  • Hydropower
  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Tide and Current power
  • Tide barrage and turbines
  • Wave power
  • Nuclear energy
  • Fission reactors
  • Fusion
  • Half lives and radioactivity
  • Waste to energy

4. Storage and Use of Electricity

  • Terminology
  • Cells
  • Batteries and their requirements
  • Inverters
  • Alternators and regulators
  • Converters
  • System types
  • EMR and Electricity Use
  • Recommended Exposure Limits
  • Safety with Electricity

5. Non-electric Systems

  • passive solar
  • fire wood
  • creosote formation
  • biofuels
  • ethanol
  • passive solar energy
  • solar hot water
  • greenhouses
  • night insulation

6. Energy Consumption

  • pricing
  • population growth
  • large scale reduction of energy consumption

7. Energy Conservation

  • reducing energy consumption in the home
  • temperature control
  • minimising light energy consumption
  • minimising appliance energy consumption
  • insulation
  • water conservation
  • solar house design

8. Converting to Alternative Systems

  • estimating energy needs
  • building efficiency
  • system design
  • system designers


Healthy Buildings

Building biology, bio-house design, biological architecture and ecological building all refer to the construction of a building along lines of more natural, renewable resources and health of the occupants. In other words buildings become more people-friendly. It aims to establish a balance between technology, culture and biology.

"Building Biology deals with the study of living organisms in and around the building environment which have direct or indirect effect on the health of the building fabric, its materials, structures, environments and occupants."

To a human-being the walls of a building can be regarded as a third skin (the first is our own skin, the second is our clothing). Most buildings do not breathe like our natural skin and unfortunately in the USA this has been shown to lead to a build-up in radioactive radon gas and reduce the benefits of passive solar energy in spring and autumn. If a building is to be sealed (which most are) then it needs to be well ventilated to remove unhealthy pollutants.

Many buildings contain hazardous materials or substances without the owner's knowledge. Freshly constructed cement homes have high levels of moisture, homes built in the 60's contain asbestos cement which is known to be carcinogenic and old piping systems are frequently painted with lead paints. In addition the household disinfectants, fly sprays, paints, varnishes, and other fumes released from a large range of furnishings and commodities are of no benefit to the occupant's health.

Environmental costs are considered from the very first stage of planning. If products need to be transported a good distance, then they are usually rejected due to pollution, energy and costs for transportation. Even non-renewable resources are avoided.

Building Biology also deals with the environment in general and the climate of living. The climate of living can be determined by things such as:

  • installations and furnishings
  • noise and acoustics
  • lighting and colours
  • radiation, avoiding disturbed areas
  • radioactivity
  • space, form and proportion
  • physiology and psychology of living and working
  • city planning with biological, ecological and sociological aspects.

Bio-houses and bio-settlements have been sprouting up throughout Europe over the years. They frequently contain solar temperature-control systems or insulated winter gardens for heating. Sites are surveyed with divining rods to ensure the area is free of ground water veins and other electromagnetic disturbances.

Biotechture utilizes vegetation to reverse the harsh processes caused by buildings. Plants usually intercept between 70% and 90% of incoming solar radiation. Deciduous trees can provide a 5 degree C reduction in heat in summer but allows the sun through in winter thereby reducing energy loss by up to 30%.

Many plants have characteristics that can be used for the benefit of construction. Leaves defoliate and remove air pollution, foliage that closes and opens can act like a ventilator, etc. It is advisable to use plant as much as possible to complement the house not only aesthetically but also functionally.

Working with Healthy Buildings

  • Opportunities to work in this industry are limited, but expanding. Legislation (particularly in parts of Europe), is leading to increasing significance being given to health issues in the way buildings are constructed. Study of building biology factors is being included increasingly into relevant courses (eg. Architecture), throughout many parts of the developed world.
  • Different terminology is used by different professionals, from bio-harmonic architecture or healthy buildings to sick building syndrome and building biology. These terms all refer to similar things: the impact of a building on the health of people using it.

How to be Sustainable with Water on a Rural Property

  • Water, its quantity and quality, can be a major determining factor in the success or failure of a farm. These features also have an influence on determining how the water will be used on the farm. Water is commonly used on farms for:
  • Irrigating crops and pastures
  • Drinking water (human and animal use)
  • Washing/sanitation
  • Aquaculture

Sources of water for farms might include direct collection of rain (into tanks), underground water (bores or springs), dams, lakes, creeks, river, atmosphere catching (condensation on the foliage of trees that drips to the ground), recycled waste water, desalination of sea water or, in some instances, connections to town water supplies.

Water can be saved in many ways in farms:

  • Storing rain water
  • Maintaining water quality in storage
  • Maintaining groundwater quality
  • Installing irrigation systems
  • Managing the adequate amount of water to each crop at each growth stage
  • Managing water use for animal needs:
    o Use of water feeders
    o Use of water for cleaning stables and milking stations
  • Saving water in other uses: cooling systems, cleaning installations.

METHODS of Water Storage

Weir (Watercourse Dam)

In many places it is illegal to divert or stop the flow of a natural watercourse by damming; however, in such cases it may be permissible to build a weir to create a sump or to divert water into an off-stream storage dam or tank. Before doing so it is important that you contact the relevant water authority to discuss the legal aspects involved.

Hillside Dam

The hillside dam, usually three-sided, is a cut and fill construction into the side of a prominent hillside. The embankment material is gouged from the hillside, forming a pocket-like effect. Water flows into this dam by sheet flow, and diversion banks can be used to increase the amount of runoff collected.

Gully Dam

This type of dam is created by building an earth wall across a natural drainage line between two ridges. The water is stored at a higher elevation than the surrounding grass flats, which can then be flood-irrigated by gravity. Underground pipes can be used to transport water to stock drinking troughs.


A tank is designed to collect/store rainwater or bore water, usually made from concrete, galvanised iron or fibreglass.

Excavated Tank

Below-ground level water catchment area usually restricted to flat ground.

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Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability. Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop
Adriana Fraser

Freelance writer, businesswoman, educator and consultant for over 30 years. Adriana has written extensively for magazines including free living publications -Grass Roots and Home Grown; and has authored or co authored many books ranging from a biography
Christine Todd

University lecturer, businesswoman, photographer, consultant and sustainability expert; with over 40 years industry experience B.A., M.Plan.Prac., M.A.(Social). An expert in planning, with years of practical experience in permaculture.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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