Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 88.13
Liaison Tonie Miyamoto
Submission Date Nov. 7, 2022

STARS v2.2

Colorado State University
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Kirstie Tedrick
Sustainability Coordinator
Housing & Dining Services
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution conduct an assessment of the sustainability literacy of its students?:

Which of the following best describes the literacy assessment? The assessment is administered to::
The entire (or predominate) student body, directly or by representative sample

Which of the following best describes the structure of the assessment? The assessment is administered as a::
Pre- and post-assessment to the same cohort or to representative samples in both a pre- and post-test

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment(s):
A list or sample of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment or the website URL where the assessment tool may be found:

Are you familiar with the concept of sustainability?
Are you familiar with the concept of systems thinking?
Are you familiar with the concept of eco-justice?
Do you… recycle plastics, paper, aluminum. Use a refillable water bottle?
How important was sustainability to you prior to attending CSU… and currently?
What is a food desert?
What is a living wage?
What is a carbon footprint?
The Life Cycle Assessment is a tool to evaluate what?
The Triple Bottom Line refers to what?
Most minimum-wage workers are employed in which industry?
At CSU, where have you learned about sustainability?

A brief description of how the literacy assessment was developed and/or when it was adopted:

Colorado State University (CSU) assesses the sustainability literacy of students to evaluate the success of sustainability education initiatives. The initial CSU Sustainability Literacy Assessment (SLA) was developed by Dr. Renee Harmon in collaboration with the President's Sustainability Committee in Fall 2014. Feedback from the larger CSU community and a review by faculty, staff, and student representatives have shaped the progression of the assessment into the version administered in 2021.

The 2021 Sustainability Literacy Assessment is a continuation of assessments given biannually to CSU students, with slight adjustments to some questions, allowing for a longitudinal analysis of the progress of the sustainability curriculum at CSU. The 2021 Assessment was developed from the 2018 assessment, furthering the assessments given in 2016 and 2014.

A brief description of how a representative sample was reached (if applicable) and how the assessment(s) were administered :

The CSU Sustainability Literacy Assessment was distributed by email in the Spring semester of 2021, beginning February 16 and running through April 6. Of the 25,026 students invited, 1,041 responded to the assessment, for a 4.2% response rate. The campus survey system is used to administer all campus-wide CSU surveys, so the survey creator and the CSU President's Sustainability Commission do not have access to survey distribution approaches, nor do they make decisions regarding who to distribute to. The survey was administered by email, as are all other campus-wide surveys. Survey administrators have no control over who completes the survey, as it is solely a student's decision to participate. The survey did not ask students to provide their program of study, and all student responses were completely anonymous. We asked survey participants about their interest in sustainability before attending CSU and their interest in sustainability after attending CSU.

A brief summary of results from the literacy assessment(s):

The results of the assessment indicate where CSU is excelling in sustainability education and where there is room for improvement. 93% of respondents were familiar with the term sustainability, while 28% were familiar with systems thinking. 51% of respondents were familiar with the term eco-justice, while 49% were not. This indicates that ecojustice and systems thinking are both areas in which CSU can improve within curriculum.

Another interesting finding from the results was the percentage of assessment respondents (39%) who said they did not know the Triple Bottom Line. 58% of respondents did say they knew the Triple Bottom Line, an improvement from the 2018 Assessment (56%). 70% of respondents could define the term carbon footprint, compared to 62% in 2018. When the assessment asked questions about participants’ behaviors regarding recycling plastics (93%), paper (93%), and aluminum (84%) the majority of respondents answered they do recycle. Additionally, 95% of respondents reported using a refillable water bottle.

Overall, CSU students know a lot about environmental sustainability. Analyzing the assessment results, respondents answered most questions correctly and showed they are familiar with topics that fall within the Triple Bottom Line, even if they were not specifically familiar with the framework. However, from this data learning opportunities are visible, such as placing greater focus on students’ knowledge about renewable energy sources, the definition of living wage and topics around socioeconomics, and the concept of systems-thinking. Assessment respondents said they learned about sustainability through campus practices (57%), which include recycling bins, compost bins, and water bottle filling stations. This percentage was close to the 56% of respondents who stated they learned about sustainability in classes they took (respondents could select multiple answers). This shows many students correlate environmental practices with sustainability, such as recycling, while less students understand the concept of sustainability in relation to economic and social dimensions. Because respondents reported they learned about sustainability around campus, CSU should consider how students can learn about systems-thinking and the Triple Bottom Line outside a formal classroom.

Website URL where information about the sustainability literacy assessment 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.