Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 54.34
Liaison Samuel Crowl
Submission Date March 11, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Ohio University
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.24 / 4.00 Annie Laurie Cadmus
Associate Director
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

The percentage of students assessed for sustainability literacy (directly or by representative sample) and for whom a follow-up assessment is conducted:

The percentage of students assessed for sustainability literacy (directly or by representative sample) without a follow-up assessment:

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment(s):

The questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment(s) :

1. What do you believe is the best definition of “sustainability”?
a. Living within your means
b. Reduce, reuse, recycle
c. Eating a well-balanced diet
d. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations

2. What do you feel are the most important aspects of sustainability?
a. Environmental preservation and conservation
b. Social health and wellbeing
c. Economic vitality
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

3. Have you calculated your own carbon footprint?
a. Yes
b. No
c. What’s a carbon footprint?

A brief description of how the assessment(s) were developed:

A pilot program occurred in FY 12 where a larger set of questions was asked to over 250 students. Through their responses and conversations after survey implementation, the above three questions were identified as the most relevant to "literacy" as it relates to sustainability. In order to comply with the Ohio University Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) who administers the survey, the requested that the sustainability literacy assessment had to be limited to three questions.

A brief description of how the assessment(s) were administered:

Initial Assessments: Incoming students (first year) at orientation are given the CIRP every 3 years - these questions are included on that assessment in order to assess sustainability literacy rates from incoming students in the Fall.
Follow-up Assessments: Then, all graduates will be emailed the same questions each spring to assess if coursework, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences on campus assist in the development of "literacy" as it relates to sustainability.

As of Spring 2014, only two years of results have been collected. Spring 2016 will mark the first year of graduates that were also assessed as incoming Freshmen.

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

Surveys given during the 2011-2012 academic year at Ohio University indicated that sustainability literacy on campus is in a developing stage. Respondents recognize vague concepts of sustainability but not specific details such as standard definitions or the relationships between various sustainability concepts. Only 39.1% of respondents recognized the standard Brundtland definition as the best definition of sustainability; only 17.6% of respondents had calculated their own carbon footprint; and though the majority of respondents recognized many tenets of sustainability, only 23% of respondents recognized either infrastructure or social justice as components of sustainability. Data from these surveys can be used as a baseline to evaluate strategies to increase sustainability literacy on campus.
Only 39.1% of respondents chose the standard Brundtland definition as the best definition of sustainability. The rest chose definitions which captured only some of the concepts of sustainability (environmental concerns, definition A: 25.6%; personal responsibility and environmental concerns, definition B: 22.7%; ecological balance, definition D: 8.8%; or other (respondent-written definitions covering various aspects of sustainability), no answer: 3.8%). Although respondents could have been aware of the Brundtland definition but not felt it was the best definition, the responses seem to indicate that a majority of respondents are not familiar with the standard sustainability definition.

The majority of respondents at Ohio University have not taken a carbon footprint quiz, which is a method of measuring individual sustainability. Only 17.7% of respondents had taken a carbon footprint quiz. Since carbon footprint quizzes are easy to administer, easy to take, and cover many concepts of sustainability, requiring carbon footprint quizzes in some Ohio University courses could be a simple strategy for increasing sustainability literacy on campus.

Answers to the third question, “what does sustainability mean to you?”, indicate that the majority of respondents have at least a vague understanding of sustainability concepts, but are not aware of the details of the relationship between sustainability and many aspects of campus life. For example, energy usage and corresponding costs could be cut drastically if the infrastructure on campus was more energy efficient, but only 23% of respondents saw infrastructure as an aspect of sustainability. Social justice, a basic tenet of Ohio University’s Sustainability Plan, was also only considered a component of sustainability by 23% of respondents. Other categories that received lower scores were personal wellness, living simply, and behavior change. These categories could be targeted in a campus-wide sustainability awareness campaign.

The website URL where information about the literacy assessment(s) is available:

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.