Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 85.42
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 4, 2021

STARS v2.2

Cornell University
EN-6: Assessing Sustainability Culture

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Sarah Carson
Director, Campus Sustainability Office
FS - Energy & Sustainability
"---" 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:

The "Mission Sustainability" module included both a "Sustainability & Climate Literacy Survey" (noted under the Sustainability Literacy credit) as well as a qualitative short-response question designed to capture knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of all incoming students. A copy of this course was also distributed broadly to campus, and staff, faculty, and upperlevel students were also encouraged to complete the course (including both assessments).

"Name one key takeaway from the "Cornellians Address the Climate Crisis" video, and why it stood out to you. Then describe one way you imagine getting involved in climate action and sustainability as a Cornell student."


The "Climate Literacy Survey" is a longitudinal study for graduating students to see what they have learned in four years since their arrival to campus as first-year students. This survey is being run by a Cornell faculty member, along with a Cornell staff member from HR. The initial survey was sent in fall 2016, and the final survey was sent in fall 2019.

A sustainability behavior survey has been utilized as part of our Sustainability Staff Leaders engagement program focused on employees. When a college or unit is starting up a green team, a pre-survey is administered to staff and faculty within the area. Once the program is implemented, post-surveys are done yearly with the same group to assesses the impact and adoption of sustainability cultural awareness and behavior change. Additional long-term survey follow-up is a target strategy for the program.

Additionally, as part of the university's pandemic response, many sustainability behavior-related questions were included in employee surveys, including questions about health & wellness, remote work, business travel, etc.

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:

From Mission Sustainability survey:

1) Of the following, which issues do you consider urgent to address? (Choose all that apply)

Economic Inequality
Health Care
Climate Change
Racial Justice
Immigation Issues
Voting Rights
None of these - I don't think these are urgent issues

2) Which of these motivate you to engage in sustainable behaviors? (Choose all that apply)

Protecting human health & well-being
Protecting animals & ecosystems
Saving money
Influencing systems to change
Supporting social justice
Concerns about my future
Concerns about the future of others
It's the right thing to do to make the world a better place
None of these - I'm really just not interested in sustainability
Other - something not listed


Please indicate which statement best describes your engagement with each of the below behaviors/practices:
- Use reusable mugs, water bottles, and/or plates
- Reduce the overall amount of printing you do
- Unplug computers, printers, and other electronics during winter and/or spring breaks.


Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the below statements:
- It is personally important for me to work for an employer who values sustainability.
- Since participating in Think Big, Live Green, I now engage in more sustainable practices in my home.
- Sustainability is a personal passion for me.


"Climate Literacy Survey" questions:
- How urgent do you feel each of the following issues are for the U.S. government to address?
- Which one of the following statements best reflects your belief on the state of social justice in the United States today?
- What is your level of engagement with each of the following sustainable behaviors?
- Which of these motivate you to engage in sustainable behaviors (check all that apply)?
- To the best of your knowledge, which do you think is the largest contributor to Cornell’s greenhouse gas emissions?
- Please indicate how much you DISAGREE or AGREE with each of the following statements about your attitudes toward the environment in general. Please respond as you really feel, rather than how you think “most people” feel.
- How concerned are you about the state of the natural environment?
- Now, please think about the average Cornell student. How concerned do you think they are about the state of the natural environment?
- Which of the activities and/or experiences listed below have you engaged in since coming to Cornell? (Check all that apply)
- In a few words, what Cornell experience or activity most affected your knowledge, beliefs, and/or attitudes towards sustainability?
- Which statement best reflects your future employment plans?

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

The Mission Sustainability course was added to the new student To-Do List. Students typically complete items on the To-Do List with a 95-99% completion rate. During 2020, the rate of completion for the mission sustainability course was 85%.


The employee survey was sent directly to employees in the areas where the sustainability engagement program was deployed. Responses were anonymous, though participants did provide basic demographics and some provided contact information.


Climate Literacy Survey - The survey was sent out to students in randomly selected residence halls, through the residence hall listserv.

A brief summary of results from the cultural assessment:

From the qualitative questions on the Mission Sustainability course, the vast majority of students indicated knowledge of sustainability, a willingness to engage in sustainability behaviors on campus, and set intentions to engage in behaviors like proper waste management, participating in sustainability-focused student orgs, taking sustainability-related courses, and more.


An example excerpt from one program survey summary:

"Key programs of the College Engagement Program in the College of Engineering were the Green Labs and Offices Certification Programs. According to the survey, 45% of respondents did not know about the Green Lab Certification Program. 43% of respondents did not know about the Green Office Certification. “Lack of departmental organization and communication” and “physical constraints” were the main barriers to participating in this program. COE Green Ambassadors were also key to the campaign communication and success by actively conducting the self-assessment for their work-group with campaign provided outreach materials and strategies."


Climate Literacy Survey - Learned what sustainable behaviors students already had in place before arriving at Cornell and what behaviors they were interested in cultivating. Longitudinal results will be available later this year.

Website URL where information about the assessment of sustainability culture is available:
Additional documentation to support 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.