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Leveraging sport as a venue and vehicle for transformative sustainability learning

Madeleine Orr (Department of Sport Management, SUNY Cortland, Cortland, New York, USA)
Brian P. McCullough (Division of Sport Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
Jamee Pelcher (Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 15 July 2020

Issue publication date: 5 September 2020




Given greater awareness of environmental issues and the acceleration of climate change, universities are increasingly requiring undergraduate students to complete coursework in environmental issues. Research has shown that environmental courses hosted in science departments can be too challenging for students with no science background. Thus, new approaches to general environmental education at the undergraduate level are necessary. This paper aims to advance three transformative sustainability learning (TSL) interventions that leverage sport as the living laboratory for environmental education through examining green teams and in depth sport venue tours.


This paper details the experimental application of three TSL interventions in undergraduate sport courses.


Each intervention produced lasting benefits for several parties. Students benefit from greater exposure to sport management organizations and a hands-on learning opportunity. Sport organizations benefit from a promotional opportunity to showcase their sustainability efforts, improved sustainability practices at their facilities and the opportunity to leverage the students’ involvement for fan engagement initiatives

Research limitations/implications

The interventions presented in this paper were developed in a North American sport context, however, there is a considerable opportunity to develop similar interventions in any region where sport organizations exist.


Despite being one of the most universally appreciated and visible industries, the sport industry has yet to be used as a site for meaningful sustainability learning interventions. The interventions presented herein introduce the opportunity to leverage students’ love of sport for outcomes for all parties: the students, the host organization and sport fans.



Orr, M., McCullough, B.P. and Pelcher, J. (2020), "Leveraging sport as a venue and vehicle for transformative sustainability learning", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 1071-1086.



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