Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.14
Liaison Kylee Singh
Submission Date July 10, 2023

STARS v2.2

California Polytechnic State University
EN-6: Assessing Sustainability Culture

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Hadley Willman
Assistant Director
Initiative for Climate Leadership and Resilience
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution conduct an assessment of sustainability culture?:

Which of the following best describes the cultural assessment? The assessment is administered to::
The entire campus community (students and employees) directly or by representative sample

Which of the following best describes the structure of the cultural assessment? The assessment is administered::
Longitudinally to measure change over time

A brief description of how and when the cultural assessment(s) were developed and/or adopted:

Cal Poly produced and delivered its first sustainability literacy and culture assessment to students and faculty in 2018. To support the advancement of sustainability education on campus, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology formed an interdisciplinary faculty learning community in 2016 focused on “Teaching Sustainability Across the Curriculum.” This faculty group, representing four of six academic colleges, works to improve students’ sustainability learning through the creation and promotion of educational experiences based on current best practices. Within the group discussions, anecdotal evidence and faculty experiences pointed to a consensus that implementation of sustainability goals was at best limited in the current campus climate, despite ongoing institutional efforts. Therefore, a campus-wide survey was proposed to assess student and faculty sustainability knowledge, awareness, and culture in order to make more informed future decisions.

In late 2022, a team of faculty and staff from the Sustainability Office, Initiative for Climate Leadership and Resilience, and NRES (Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences) academic department got to work revitalizing the assessment. The team evaluated the results and methodology for data collection from 2018, as well as dozens of other sustainability literacy/culture assessments from other higher education institutions, to best inform new processes and the adaptation of the questionnaire. The most notable difference between the 2018 and 2023 assessments is that the former was administered to both faculty and students, and the latter only to students for the purposes of accelerated data collection so that it may be included in the 2023 STARS report. Additionally, the number of questions in the “Values” (or culture) section was raised from 6 to 14 to ensure a spread of questions were asked that both evaluated students’ perception of sustainability culture and curriculum at Cal Poly, and students’ general values and beliefs regarding sustainability. One optional written response was provided at the end of both surveys, allowing students to express their additional thoughts in their own words.

The survey was approved for human subjects research by Cal Poly’s Institutional Review Board in early March 2023, and data collection commenced immediately before concluding in mid April. It is planned to deliver the survey annually, compare data as students advance from one grade level to the next, and evaluate whether adjusted/increased curriculum/event opportunities correlate with higher sustainability literacy, values, and campus culture across grade levels.

This study seeks to understand how students’ sustainability values correlate with both their sustainability literacy and perceptions of barriers to and solutions for the integration of sustainability in teaching, learning, and programming. The data then serves to identify opportunities for improving sustainability education, offerings, and culture across campus in order to meet students’ wants and needs. To achieve this goal, students from across the six colleges were assessed using qualitative methods to determine in-depth understanding of sustainability knowledge, culture, and the identification and overcoming of barriers to integrating sustainability in higher education curriculum.

A copy or sample of the questions related to sustainability culture:
A sample of the questions related to sustainability culture or the website URL where the assessment tool is available:

1. How important do you think sustainability is? (Scale 0 to 5)
2. How important do you think it is to include sustainability learning in the Cal Poly
classroom? (Scale 0 to 5)
3. How well does Cal Poly teach sustainability? (Scale 0 to 5)

4. What are some ways to infuse sustainability education in the classroom at Cal Poly?
(Choose up to 3)
a. Better marketing of sustainability classes
b. Integrate sustainability topics into already existing classes
c. Offer more sustainability classes in major
d. Make sustainability a GE requirement (would not increase number of required units)
e. Advise how sustainability education relates to career opportunities
f. The university should make it a priority by allocating more funds to sustainability
g. Professors should allocate more time to sustainability education
h. Add first year sustainability education opportunities
i. I don’t think we should make sustainability education more accessible
j. Other, Explain

5. What prevents you from receiving more sustainability instruction at Cal Poly? (Choose up
to 3)
a. I don’t have enough time
b. It doesn’t fit with my major or academic goals
c. I don’t know how to find the courses
d. I don’t have enough electives
e. Cal Poly does not offer enough sustainability courses
f. Cal Poly does not offer enough sustainability courses in my major(s)/minor(s)
g. Courses are not well promoted
h. Professors lack motivation
i. Professors lack competency in subject
j. The university does not prioritize funding
k. I don’t care about sustainability
l. Other, Explain

6. During your time at Cal Poly, how many courses have you taken that address the topics
presented in this survey?
a. 0
b. 1-2
c. 3 or more

7. Which of the following has educated you the most about sustainability?
a. General education classes
b. Degree program classes
c. Sustainability Month
d. Social media
e. Events
f. Family
g. Friends
h. News media
i. Other

8. Rank your agreement with the following statement on a scale of 1-5 (1 being strongly
disagree, 5 being strongly agree): Global warming is happening.
9. Rank your agreement with the following statement on a scale of 1-5 (1 being strongly
disagree, 5 being strongly agree): Global warming is caused mostly by human activities.
10. Rank your agreement with the following statement on a scale of 1-5 (1 being strongly
disagree, 5 being strongly agree): I am worried about global warming.

11. Mark your familiarity for each of the following sustainability resources at Cal Poly:
(Options: I have never heard of this before; I have heard of this, but never used or
interacted with the resource; I have used or interacted with this resource)
a. Academic Senate Sustainability Committee
b. ASI Secretary of Sustainability
c. CAFES Center for Sustainability
d. College Corps fellowship program
e. Eco Reps
f. Green Campus
g. Initiative for Climate Leadership and Resilience
h. Sustainability Catalog for academic courses
i. Sustainability learning outcomes for academic courses
j. Zero Waste Ambassadors
k. Compost according to San Luis Obispo County standards
l. Reuse your cup to get a discount on drinks

12. Rank your current level of participation in the following individual sustainable practices.
(Scale of 1 to 5, 1 being never, 5 being always)
a. Turning off lights in unoccupied rooms
b. Sort waste into appropriate bins (trash, recycling, or food waste)
c. Using a reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup
d. Printing only essential/required documents
e. Utilizing alternative transportation (bus, bike, walking)
f. Commuting to campus via carpool or Electric Vehicle
g. Participating in department or campus events related to sustainability
h. Talking to my colleagues/peers about climate change, sustainability, or other similar
i. Participating in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion trainings, activities, or events
j. Choosing plant-based meals over meat-based meals

13. Prior to this survey, were you aware of Cal Poly’s sustainability website?
a. Yes, and I have visited it
b. Yes, but I have never visited it
c. No

14. Prior to this survey, were you aware of Cal Poly’s sustainability newsletter?
a. Yes, and I am subscribed
b. Yes, but I am not subscribed
c. No

15. OPTIONAL: In what way(s) might Cal Poly better engage students in discussion and making
decisions about what sustainable practices might be promoted on campus

A brief description of how representative samples were reached (if applicable) and how the cultural assessment is administered:

Selection of participants for the STARS Sustainability Literacy Assessment was done via systematic outreach to academic departments across all six colleges on campus by representatives of the assessment. The main metric for achieving a representative sample of students was to ensure representation from students enrolled in all six colleges and all grade levels. Representatives of the assessment included staff members from Cal Poly’s Initiative for Climate Leadership and Resilience, Sustainability Office, and student College Corps fellows that are placed within the Sustainability Office.

Department heads and administrative assistants were contacted via email and asked to share with their faculty the opportunity for an assessment representative to visit professors’ classrooms and deliver the survey to students in real-time. The student fellows emailed their own professors to ask to present and deliver the survey to their own classes. When needed, individual professors from the different colleges were emailed directly and general education classes were prioritized to ensure a representative sample was reached. For example, many of the student fellows were enrolled within CAFES (the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences), and so non-CAFES colleges, departments, and professors were the target of additional outreach to ensure representation. 30 classes in total were presented to; these classes were taught across all six colleges and spread across 100-500 levels, to students pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Once professors agreed to use their class time for the assessment, an assessment representative would:
Visit the allotted class period,
Present a slide with a QR code to the survey and quick details on the survey,
Introduce the purpose, method, and instructions for the survey verbally, and
Remain in the classroom for the next 10-15 minutes as students took the survey in real-time.

The survey was also shared with students via flyers, email campaigns, social media, and Earth Week events.

A brief summary of results from the cultural assessment:

There were 724 responses to the survey, representing a significant portion of Cal Poly’s student population. The last 14 questions of the assessment were value/culture questions, and were followed by an optional short-response question that allowed students to share additional thoughts.

On a scale of 1-5 (5 being best), students agreed with the following statements with the following averages:
- “How important is sustainability to you?” 4.72/5
- “How important do you think it is to include sustainability learning in the Cal Poly classroom?” 4.46/5
- “How well does Cal Poly teach sustainability?” 2.85/5

80.2% of students strongly agreed that global warming is happening, 72.5% strongly agreed that global warming is mostly caused by human activities, and 64.1% strongly agreed that they were worried about global warming.

Additional questions provided overwhelming consistency in several areas. First, students are very unaware of most sustainability resources or groups on campus. Second, 97.79% of respondents selected up to 3 ideas for ways sustainability education could better be infused in the classroom, indicating a strong want for such an education to exist and be better. In finding potential fault with sustainability education, the great majority did not point to faculty lacking motivation or competency to teach these subjects, but instead a need for better marketing of classes and increased prioritization of funding. Other questions provided more detailed analysis of which resources students knew the least about, what stopped students from being more engaged in sustainability via academics and campus engagement, etc.

151 of 724 respondents shared a response to the final question, the optional written response, which asked “In what way(s) might Cal Poly better engage students in discussion and making decisions about what sustainable practices might be promoted on campus?”

There is a positive relationship between scores on the first literacy assessment, and ranking of the importance of sustainability in the final value/culture section (participants were asked to rank the importance of sustainability on a 0-5 scale).

Website URL where information about the assessment of sustainability culture is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.