Making a difference with a 30 day sustainability challenge

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Mon Mar 23 2020

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Author: Guest contributor

As an extension of this year's Academic Book Week* theme, 'The Environment,' we asked our book authors who have published research in related fields to share their thoughts on the future of the academic book as it relates to climate change, how they engage with audiences beyond their scholarly circle to make an impact, and much more.

Read a guest post below from Robert Brinkmann, author of Environmental Sustainability in a Time of Change and co-author of The Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions.

As an academic author in the field of sustainability, I sometimes feel like I am writing in an echo chamber. My books reach students and researchers interested in the field of sustainability, but I always long to reach a larger audience. There are so many global sustainability issues that I wish we could address as a unified society and I get frustrated that the knowledge that I have stays within a relatively small community. I want to have a greater impact.

When I felt this way a decade ago, I started a blog called On the Brink. Its goal is to provide thoughtful, positive, and accessible commentary and information on a variety of sustainability topics including current events. It has a relatively big reach and I am certain that many get some use out of the nearly 2000 current and past posts.

But in the last decade, as the impacts of climate change have accelerated, I felt called to do more and eventually, I came upon the idea of the 30 Day Sustainability Challenge.

The challenge provides opportunities for anyone to join a closed, private Facebook group where I provide live coaching and mini-lectures on sustainability topics. Participants in the Challenge can interact with each other and there is a degree of community that develops over the 30-day period.

I started the first group in February and built it around 6 themes:  energy and greenhouse gases, water, food, consumption, knowledge, and community. Participants were challenged to:

  • reduce their energy use
  • calculate and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
  • evaluate their impact within local water systems
  • consider their food choices and evaluate how they can support local food systems
  • not purchase anything other than necessities for 30 days
  • do something (beach cleanup, attend a meeting, etc.) in their community once a week
  • gain knowledge on a specific topic in sustainability

Several dozen people from all over the world and from a range of occupations participated in the group and transformed themselves by living a greener life. I recruited participants on my Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, and Facebook feeds. Everyone who joined made fundamental lifestyle changes that also influenced their families and friends.

What was particularly enjoyable for me and for others was the geographic variation in where the participants lived. A range of perspectives came through and I think everyone got a greater understanding of the types of issues that people in other parts of the world face as they confront their own local sustainability challenges.

The experience also changed me. It made me rethink how I conduct my life and how I can have a smaller footprint on the planet. The experience also brought to life how experts can utilize the power of social media to provide educational experiences to the general public.

The next 30 Day Sustainability Challenge Starts April 1, 2020. If you are interested in being part of the next challenge, just send your email address to me at and I will get you into the group. Just be prepared to change yourself and change the world.

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About Robert Brinkmann

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Robert (Bob) Brinkmann is a sustainability expert and writer who lives in Long Island, New York. He is also a professor of Sustainability at Hofstra University.  He has published numerous articles and books including The Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions (edited with Sandra Garren; 2018) and Environmental Sustainability in a Time of Change (2019). His edited book (with Sandra Garren) on suburban sustainability will come on in 2020. He is also the book series editor for Environmental Sustainability with Palgrave Macmillan Publishing.

Brinkmann believes in practicing what he preaches.  Besides running the 30 Day Sustainability Challenge, he has taught dozens of people how to make rain barrels, how to create gardens for small spaces, and how to worm compost. He lives a carbon neutral life and seeks to live a minimalist life. He has appeared as an expert on CNN News, CBS News, and PBS. His blog, On the Brink, is one of the most popular sustainability blogs on the Internet.


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