Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.35
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 3, 2022

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:

Mission Sustainability Assessments

The Mission Sustainability module includes both a "Sustainability Survey" (see attached: quantitative literacy & culture questions) as well as three qualitative short-response questions designed to capture knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of all incoming students. The course also includes a "Test Your Knowledge" mini quiz with 5 knowledge-based questions focused on ways to live sustainably on campus. A copy of this course is also distributed broadly to campus, and staff, faculty, and upperlevel students are also encouraged to complete the course (including all questions). A follow up survey is conducted in the following spring/summer to see how knowledge and beliefs change over the course of the first year.

Climate Literacy Survey

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 Green Team 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:

Mission Sustainability questions
(See attached document for full assessment tool)

Short-response questions:
1) In two or three sentences: Share one key idea that stood out to you from the "Cornellians Address the Climate Crisis" video, and explain why.

2) In one or two sentences: Identify one course from any college that intrigues you. How do you think this sustainability course might relate to your interests or long-term goals?

3) In one or two sentences: Describe one way you imagine getting involved in sustainability and climate action at Cornell.

Test your knowledge mini-quiz questions:
1) Of the following, which actions can reduce your carbon footprint when living on campus? (Check all that apply)
- Purchasing gently used or secondhand items
- Grouping shipments of packages together when shopping online
- Plugging electronics into a power strip and turning it off when not in use
- Washing laundry in cold water

2) Of the following, which would be considered living in the most environmentally sustainable way?
- Recycling all recyclable packaging
- Reducing consumption of all products
- Buying products labelled "eco" or "green"
- Buying the newest products available

3) Of the following items, which cannot be recycled on campus?
- Coffee cups
- Paper & cardboard
- Metal cans & foil
- Glass containers

4) True or False: Cornell Dining offers reusable containers in Dining Rooms, so you can reduce waste while taking food to go.
- True
- False

5) Of the following, which are considered sustainable ways to travel across campus? (Check all that apply)
- Taking the bus
- Walking
- Riding a bike
- Carpooling

Question sample from Green Team survey

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 Fall 2020, the rate of completion for the mission sustainability course was 85% (3,200 new students). During Fall 2021, the completion rate was much higher with 3,800 new students completing the survey.


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.

In 2021, we found the following results to our questions focusing in on social norms:
- 98.5% (9 out of 10) students were concerned about the state of the environment to some extent
- 94% (9 out of 10) students were moderately, very, or extremely concerned.
- Less than 2% were “not at all concerned,” and 7 out of 10 new students were very or extremely concerned
- New students underestimate the level of concern their peers have about environmental & sustainability issues. Students were asked to “…think about the average Cornell student, in your best guess, how concerned do you think they are …”
-- Collectively, new students guess only 5% of their peers are extremely concerned, whereas 27% were extremely concerned.
-- Collectively, new students guess only 40% of their peers are moderately or extremely concerned, whereas 67% are moderately or extremely concerned


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:

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.