Campus Sustainability Survey Report Now Available

Aug. 28, 2019

When it comes to sustainability, Ohio State students continue to raise ambitions in their knowledge and their actions.

A fall 2018 survey of 20,500 undergraduate students by the university’s Environmental and Social Sustainability (ESS) Lab found that engagement in pro-environmental behaviors has increased by almost 30% since the last major data collection in 2014, while knowledge of sustainability-related topics increased by 10%.

“Students are consistently interested in becoming more involved in sustainability-related academic, research and professional opportunities, particularly those that build new skills,” says outgoing lab manager Emily Walpole, who ran the 2018 survey.

“Students are consistently interested in becoming more involved in sustainability-related academic, research and professional opportunities, particularly those that build new skills,” says outgoing lab manager Emily Walpole.

More than half of the survey respondents said they “often” or “always” carry a reusable water bottle, turn off the lights in an empty room, sort out recycling, and choose walking, bicycling or taking public transportation over driving.

Researchers at the lab, which is part of the School of Environment and Natural Resources, also identified some new opportunities to further promote campus sustainability goals. Walpole also emphasized opportunities to promote low-engagement and low-cost behaviors.

“Promoting water conservation and turning personal electronics off or into low-power mode when not in use, as well as educating students on proper recycling techniques on campus,” she says, “would all serve to promote various Ohio State sustainability goals.”

Since 2010, ESS Lab researchers have conducted a large survey of undergraduate students intended to assess the impact of sustainability initiatives on campus and measure changes in students’ sustainability knowledge, attitudes and behaviors over time. The researchers also collaborated with the university’s Sustainability Institute, Office of Student Life and Facilities Operations and Development (FOD) and with Ohio State Energy Partners to develop a section of the survey that informed current sustainability efforts at the university. In addition, the survey included questions from several faculty members, who intend to incorporate the results in their research related to sustainability perceptions and behavior.

See the survey executive summary or full report on the Environmental and Social Sustainability Lab website.

Incoming ESS Lab manager, Kristina Slagle, pointed out the ongoing nature of this research, noting that the next survey will be conducted in October.

“Our goal,” Slagle says,” is that this survey will provide high-quality social scientific data of use to both academic researchers and the broader campus sustainability community for years to come.”

For additional information or to discuss opportunities to collaborate, please contact Kristina Slagle.