Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Linda Kogan
Submission Date Jan. 28, 2011
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.0

University of Colorado Colorado Springs
ER-13: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired David Havlick
Asst Professor/ Director Sustainable Development Minor
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Has the institution conducted a sustainability literacy assessment?:
Yes

Did the assessment include a baseline evaluation of students and then a follow-up evaluation of the same cohort?:
Yes

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment:
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A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment :

Minor in Sustainable Development (SUDV) Assessment
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Background and short answer questions:

What is your class standing?
a. Freshman c. Junior
b. Sophomore d. Senior

Define Sustainable Development:

What are the three core subject areas (“three pillars”) of sustainable development?

Multiple Choice Questions (24 total)

1) Which of the following statements about water is true?
a. Slightly less than 500,000 people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water
b. The quality of water on earth remains constant
c. The quantity of water on earth remains constant
d. The average U.S. citizen uses approximately 40 gallons of water per day

2) What is the main premise of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics?
a. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it merely changes form
b. A system will increase in entropy to approach equilibrium
c. If designed perfectly, a system can be 100% efficient
d. A body in motion will remain in motion until a force acts upon it

3) Which of the following characteristics makes a species more vulnerable to endangerment or extinction?
a. Limited geographic range
b. Small body size
c. Live offspring
d. homeothermy

4) Currently the world’s human population is:
a. Growing at an ever-increasing rate
b. Declining sharply
c. Growing, but the rate of growth has declined slightly
d. Stable, neither growing nor declining

5) What are likely adverse effects of global warming?
a. Spread of tropical diseases to temperate regions
b. Increased severity and frequency of tropical storms
c. Flooding of coastal cities
d. All of the above

6) The richest 10 percent of the human population controls which percent of the world’s wealth?
a. 10%
b. 35%
c. 65%
d. >80%

7) The wealthiest 15 percent of the world’s population uses which percent of the world’s resources?
a. 15%
b. 35%
c. 65%
d. >90%

8) Contemporary global economic activity has had the following effect(s):
a. Lowered the world’s poverty rate
b. Increased the availability of resources worldwide
c. Caused the degradation of the world’s habitat and resources
d. All of the above

9) What has been the effect of industrial society on global extinction rates?
a. No change
b. A decrease
c. Slight increase
d. Dramatic increase

10) Which of the following best characterizes the relationship between advances in technology and Sustainable Development?
a. Technology consistently promotes Sustainable Development
b. Technology consistently works against Sustainable Development
c. Technology has no impact on Sustainable Development
d. Technology can have a positive or negative impact on Sustainable Development

11) A carrying capacity is:
a. The size a population is limited to by environmental and geographic factors
b. The economy’s ability to generate wealth
c. The total amount of energy a device can store
d. The number of species in a given ecological system

12) Which of the following resources is currently the biggest supplier of U.S. energy?
a. Solar
b. Coal
c. Wind
d. Hydro


13) In our current agricultural system, which of the following most undermines sustainability?
a. Corporations are unwilling to invest in agriculture
b. Sunlight limits plants’ ability to photosynthesize
c. Reliance upon petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides
d. Chronic worker shortages

14) Which of the following is an example of how the focus of environmental justice activists has differed from and challenged mainstream environmentalism?
a. Identifying landscape-scale corridors for wildlife conservation and habitat connectivity
b. Creating direct-action campaigns that blockaded timber sales
c. Documenting the links between race or class and exposure to environmental contaminants
d. Lobbying Congress to stop all off-shore oil drilling

15) The average supermarket food item travels approximately how far to reach the store?
a. 15 miles
b. 150 miles
c. 450 miles
d. 1,500 miles

16) Of the following, which contributes the most to sustainability?
a. Reducing consumption
b. Recycling products
c. Reusing products
d. Buying expensive new products

17) According to the 4th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, what is the level of scientific certainty that global warming is principally caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities?
a. 30 percent
b. 50 percent
c. more than 90 percent
d. 100 percent

18) Which of the following represents a significant way humans are exposed to environmental contaminants?
a. Persistent organic pollutants in the water or food stream
b. Global warming
c. Organic clothing
d. Using incandescent light bulbs

19) Which of the following is an example of social inequity?
a. Workers in Thailand making Adidas shoes
b. Workers in Sri Lanka making 1/10 the wage of workers in Staten Island
c. Workers in Detroit losing their jobs due to a drop in motor vehicle sales
d. Workers in Berlin organizing to create a labor union

20) The processes by which the environment produces resources that we often take for granted such as clean water, clean air, productive soils, habitat for fisheries, and pollination of plants is known as:
a. Social capital
b. Ecosystem services
c. Environmental economics
d. Environmental conservation

21) Truly sustainable businesses need to take into consideration:
a. The triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit
b. Whether or not products can be made more cheaply
c. The availability of migrant workers
d. The single bottom line: profits to shareholders

22) The idea that we should be concerned with the impact of our actions on generations to come is called:
a. Intergenerational equity
b. An ecological footprint
c. Intragenerational equity
d. Sustainability science

23) What is the “Greenhouse Effect?”
a. Any phenomenon that makes plants grow better
b. The natural heating phenomenon of Earth’s atmosphere
c. An unnatural buildup of carbon and methane in the atmosphere
d. The economic benefit that greenhouses and nurseries provide to communities

24) According to the 4th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), what is the level of certainty that planetary warming is occurring?
a. 30 percent
b. 70 percent
c. More than 90 percent
d. 100 percent


A brief description of how the assessment was developed:

The assessment was developed by the Director of Sustainable Development (SUDV). Working with a student research assistant, the Director contacted approximately twenty other institutions of higher education with programs or minors in sustainability/sustainable development to request copies of any existing assessments. After determining that none of the programs contacted had a well-developed assessment tool in place, the Director developed an assessment that incorporated elements of each of the three main components of sustainability (equity, environment, economy) and also measured the learning outcomes established for the minor in SUDV. The assessment was reviewed by the SUDV teaching faculty and key sustainability staff at UCCS, then revised according to this feedback.


A brief description of how the assessment was administered:

At the beginning of the Sustainability Seminar Capstone Course, each student is provided with a quiz that evaluates their baseline knowledge of sustainability issues. It is important to note that while this course is required of all students graduating with a minor in Sustainable Development, this course is open to students in all degrees and departments and many of the students come from different fields of study. At the end of the course, the same assessment is given to evaluate knowledge built within the field of sustainability.


A brief summary of results from the assessment:

Students completing the assessment scored an average of 70% at the end of the semester exam and 65% on the beginning-of-semester exam.


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