What is Environmental Policy?

Do you want to make a difference in protecting the environment, as well as the public good, and diversifying access to resources for everyone? Have you ever wanted how policy is enacted, and what is needed to make it more inclusive? This major is a multi-disciplinary degree that prepares students for careers in policy management, program implementation, and action planning for positive environmental change.

The program focuses on problem solving and implementing shared visions to effect laws and policies that monitor and manage environmental and climate change. Such laws and policies protect diverse, culturally appropriate, health-driven, economically viable landscapes—in the United States and throughout the world.

A view of New York City skyscrapers from central park under a blue sky.

Policies and programs create green space in urban areas, such as in New York City.

Environmental Policy Degree(s)

Environmental Policy, BA

Learn and apply innovative approaches to city planning and to improve the quality of communities from the local to the global level. The program stresses progressive change that leads to equitable, healthy, livable, and sustainable communities with an emphasis on social and environmental justice and equity.


Gigi Berardi, Professor and Policy Program Advisor
gberardi@wwu.edu | 360-650-2106

Kathryn Patrick, College of the Environment Professional Advisor
Kathryn.Patrick@wwu.edu | 360-650-3520

Grace Wang, Program Chair
wangg@wwu.edu | (360) 650-3278

Environmental Policy at Western

The Environmental Policy program emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems that face communities. With sustainability and climate change on the forefront of humanity’s greatest social and ethical problems, students studying environmental policy acquire knowledge on “how” government works, and how to be most effect in solving global issues. The program draws on other faculty in the Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy Department, as well as on faculty in other college departments (Environmental Studies, Environmental Sciences). Students study natural resources policy, public land conflict and collaboration, environmental policy analysis, business & sustainability, environmental dispute resolution, Native American planning, and environmental impact assessment. They also choose one of a number of emphases:


Students standing spread out on a rocky and grassy hill.

Students in Mexico at pyramids in water delivery systems.

3 cars on the street submerged under water in a flood.

Flooding events become emergencies when there’s little or poor land use planning.

Land Use

Food Security

Students sitting in front of a projected powerpoint presentation listing discussion questions.

Discussions in an upper-division class.

Program Vision and Mission


The program envisions a society where environmental and resource policy is inclusive and effective in ensuring access to basic needs of safety and comfort, shelter and infrastructure, rewarding livelihoods, and opportunities for self-realization—with special consideration for those who are most marginalized.


The mission of the Environmental Policy Program is to provide an understanding of environmental and resource policy, and the skill sets needed to implement policy and programmatic approaches for diverse, just, equitable, and sustainable communities in a resilient environment.

The program’s mission affirms and works within the broader mission of Western’s College of the Environment to integrate an outstanding policy educational program through faculty-student collaboration, applied research, and professional and community service.

Student Experiences

Organizations and Clubs

Those interested in urban planning issues, are invited to join the WWU Urban Planning Club. The Club is open to all WWU students and generally meets weekly to engage students in films, trips, discussions, shared experiences and to support their studies. Policy majors also may be part of many other AS Clubs on campus: AS Environmental and Sustainability Programs, Students for a Self-Operated Dining System, Students for Climate Action. Students for Renewable Energy, WWU Food Recovery Network, WWU Students for Zero Waste, Zero waste Western.

Hands-on-Experience and Internships

Study Abroad

Bringing together even broader communities, the College of the Environment's urban planning and sustainable development students have the opportunity to take international classes through a number of the College of the Environment's faculty-led study abroad summer programs.

Community Partnerships

Students participate participate in community partnerships through the Land Use and Food Security emphases to apply classroom research and learning to help solve real life community problems.

2 students lifting a wooden garden bed off the ground as another student shovels dirt into it.

Students work with local communities to address planning issues. Students partnered with a Mexican community to develop a freshwater cistern system in a Global Learning Program class.

Two students stand over a garden pallet, one of them is holding a shovel.
A large group of students doing gardening work at a vegetable garden.
A class sitting in front of a projected powerpoint presentation about the average student's food budget.

Students in the agroecology and ecogastronomy classes design and tend the vegetable and perennial gardens behind Arntzen Hall at WWU.   

Food security classes.

A group of students sitting on steps in summertime.
A student sitting in front of a homemade game of Jeopardy, created out of notecards taped to an upright piano.
3 students standing and sitting around a table, an apple is passed between 2 of them.
4 students sitting in canoes at the dock, 2 of them are holding paddles.

Students in the field and in communal living in Switzerland and Italy, one of several Global Education programs offered by the Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy department.

What can you do with a degree in Environmental Policy?

The program prepares students with the knowledge and skill set needed to support a socially and environmentally just world. Graduates are prepared for professional careers in policy management, program implementation, and action planning for positive environmental change. Graduates also work in consulting firms, and nonprofit advocacy organizations at the local, state, national, and international level.

Environmental Policy Careers

  • Natural Resources Policy Analyst
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Sustainable Development Consultant 
  • Natural Resources Manager 
  • Environmental attorneys
  • City administrators 
  • Public administration, law, or related fields
  • Environmental Compliance Specialist
  • Environmental Management Advisor
  • Environment, Health and Safety Specialist
  • Sustainability Specialist,
  • Land Steward
  • Research Coordinator