Sustainability is a topic that is becoming increasingly important in our society, and colleges are no exception. Veritrove has researched students, sustainability, and college life to understand the impact students’ conception of sustainability has on their decisions and behaviors related to college selection and sustainable living. This report will discuss the findings from our initial pilot survey, qualitative research, and literature review on sustainability in the collegiate environment.
Veritrove conducted a pilot survey to gather data on students, sustainability, and college life. The survey involved 200 respondents, ages 16-24, from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Maryland. Building on this initial survey, Veritrove also conducted a literature review of existing research and a pilot qualitative study, gathering input from 20 students on the concept of sustainability and its relation to college selection and campus life.
The results showed that 30% of respondents selected sustainability as a top three factor when considering/selecting a college, and 10% selected it as the number one factor. For those respondents, plastics, water, forestry, and transportation were ranked as the most important factors related to sustainability, while classes, campus greenery, clean transport, and awards/rankings were the most important factors related to campus life.
Furthermore, it was found that the concept of sustainability is poorly operationalized, and students’ perceptions and understandings of sustainability are nuanced and contextual. The responses also indicated that sustainability needs to be appreciated as a situated practice highly dependent on the organization and its stakeholders and that actions and visible changes appear to speak louder than words.
Finally, students’ perceptions and understandings of sustainability vary from how scholars and administrators define it and include less talked about concepts. Likewise, sustainability must be appreciated as a highly contextual and interdependent practice that includes curriculum development, planning and monitoring, and community engagement. A one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective, and the curriculum should not be overlooked as part of a sustainability campus master plan.
The research conducted by Veritrove provides valuable insights into the complexities of sustainability in the collegiate environment. The findings suggest that colleges need to consider a stakeholder approach to sustainability, which includes a nuanced understanding of the concept, and that a focus on visible changes and actions is more effective than words alone. As sustainability continues to gain importance, Veritrove’s consulting services and future research will be valuable resources for colleges and universities looking to implement sustainable practices.
If you want to learn more about how Veritrove can help your campus, contact us for a free consultation.