History of the Lab


The Sustainability Lab was founded in August 2011 to support and advance sustainable practices by exploring the convergence of human activity, technology, and the natural environment against the backdrop of exponential population growth, global climate change, and an increasing disparity between the rich and the poor.


The Lab is developing programs for undergraduate and graduate students aimed at exploring the complexities of supporting a sustainable world.  Each student project will not only help people understand the complexity of sustainability but also create outcomes that have significant and lasting local impact.


The initial work of the Lab entailed developing and teaching courses at Hampshire College and the University of New England focused on Social Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking and Innovation. The Lab now convenes the Maine Food System Innovation Challenge. This annual event invites teams of social entrepreneurs to Bowdoin College to create sustainable enterprises that address the expansion of locally produced food and harvested seafood.


The Sustainability Lab is based on a prior program developed by the Lab’s founder, Bill Seretta. In 1976, Seretta founded the Center for Human Ecology Studies, in Freeport, ME. The Center developed a number of student-managed projects, the most significant being the Royal River Project and the Food and Farmland Project. The Royal River project concluded with the upgrading of the Royal River classification from a “C” to a “B”, thus protecting the river for future generations. The Food and Farmland Project led to a focus on small farm production and marketing by the Maine Department of Agriculture. The most significant change since the 1970’s is that most colleges now have structured arrangements to encourage and allow students to undertake experiential based, off campus learning opportunities.