Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.26
Liaison Matt Wolsfeld
Submission Date March 21, 2023

STARS v2.2

University of Saskatchewan
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 4.00 Matt Wolsfeld
Community Engagement Co-ordinator
Office of Sustainability
"---" 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::
A subset of students or a sample that may not be representative of the predominant student body

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:

U of S Sustainability Literacy Assessment Questions
This survey is intended to assess the sustainability literacy and cultural behaviours of the University of Saskatchewan community. It is being conducted as part of the university’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Ratings System (STARS) submission in 2020 and will help inform the university’s actions as related to sustainability in the coming years. First-year students who complete the sustainability literacy assessment will be followed up with in subsequent years to address year-over-year changes in sustainability literacy. For any comments or questions regarding this survey, please do not hesitate to reach out to sustainability@usask.ca.
• Sustainability definitions: 2 questions
• Social/financial aspects: 2 questions
• Science concepts: 2 questions (1 GHGs, 1 Waste)
• Local considerations: 2 question (1GHG, 1 Waste)
• Climate impact: 2 questions (1 enviro/1 social)
• Solutions: 2 questions (1 personal/1 global)
Sustainability Literacy
This section of the survey asks you about your existing knowledge on sustainability. Please note that this is NOT intended to be a quiz. There is no need to feel you need to study or look anything up for this section of the survey. Please just select the option you think is correct. All answers are valid. If you are really stuck on a question, feel free to select “Don’t know”.
1. The most widely used concept of sustainability includes three dimensions of sustainability. Which one of the following is NOT one of the three dimensions?
a. Society
b. Democracy
c. Environment
d. Economy
e. Don’t know

2. Which of the following is the most commonly used definition of sustainable development?
a. Creating a government welfare system that ensures universal access to education, healthcare, and social services.
b. Building a neighborhood that is both socio-demographically and economically diverse.
c. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
d. Setting aside resources for preservation, never to be used.
e. Don’t know

3. Pollution and toxic industries are examples of environmental burdens. Clean water and air are examples of environmental benefits. Environmental justice tries to more fairly distribute burdens and benefits. Is this true or false?
a. True
b. False
c. Don’t know

4. The term, “Corporate Social Responsibility” is a business model that guides companies to be committed to the “triple bottom line”. Which of the following does the triple bottom line focus on?
a. Three forms of financial reporting
b. A balance of environmental, social, and financial wellbeing
c. Offering health, dental, and vision care to employees
d. Incorporating community, labor, and government representatives on the board of directors
e. Don’t know

5. Which of the following statements about greenhouse gases is TRUE?
a. Greenhouse gases allow solar radiation to escape from the Earth’s atmosphere.
b. Methane is not considered a greenhouse gas.
c. Greenhouse gases help cool the Earth.
d. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas.
e. Don’t know

6. Which of the following statements about waste is FALSE?
a. Organic waste will decompose under the right conditions.
b. Manure, leaves and grass clippings are all types of organic waste.
c. Organic waste generates methane when it decomposes in a landfill.
d. Composting organic waste reduces the amount of plastics being landfilled.
e. Don’t know

7. Which of the following items does the City of Saskatoon and the U of S campus accept in its single-stream recycling system? (Please check all that apply)
a. Plastic pop bottles
b. Glass jars
c. Styrofoam container
d. Aluminum foil
e. Plastic grocery bags
f. Cardboard box
g. Metal cans
h. Don’t know

8. Which of the following energy sources primarily powers electricity in Saskatchewan?
a. Natural gas
b. Coal
c. Wind
d. Solar
e. Hydropower
f. Nuclear power
g. Don’t know

9. According to a majority of scientists, which of the following conditions is a predicted effect of climate change?
a. Less severe weather
b. Expansion of deserts
c. Increased food security
d. Decrease in sea level
e. Don’t know

10. The following statements describe the relationship between environmental issues and socioeconomic issues. Which one of them is true?
a. Poorer people are disproportionately impacted by climate change because they are more likely to be geographically restricted into areas threatened by water scarcity, vector-borne disease, and/or potential damage from storms and floods.
b. Wealthier people are disproportionately impacted by climate change because they are more likely to own properties and business that can be negatively influenced by water scarcity, vector-borne disease, and/or potential damage from storms and floods.
c. People of all socioeconomic classes are equally impacted by climate change, but for different reasons.
d. Environmental issues and socioeconomic issues are unrelated.
e. Don’t know

11. According to experts, which one of the following actions would MOST reduce your environmental footprint?
a. Recycling all recyclable packaging
b. Reducing consumption of all products
c. Buying products labeled “eco” or “green”
d. Buying the newest products available
e. Don’t know

12. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-21) resulted in the famous “Paris Agreement”. Which of the following is the Paris Agreement?
a. To protect biodiversity and end the deforestation of the world’s rainforests
b. To keep global temperature rise well below 2℃ pre-industrial levels and to pursue a path to limit warming to 1.5℃
c. To limit sea level rise to 3 feet above current levels
d. To pursue a goal of 100% clean, renewable energy

Not for inclusion

13. Which of the following energy sources are considered renewable? (Check all that apply)
a. Gasoline
b. Geothermal
c. Nuclear
d. Wood
e. Solar
f. Coal
g. Hydropower
h. Wind

14. What is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions?
a. Agriculture and forestry
b. Transportation
c. Electricity and heat production
d. Buildings
e. Don’t know

15. What is meant by the term “carbon footprint”?
a. The age of an item found at an archaeological site
b. The carbon left on the ground each time you take a step
c. The size of the carbon chain in a given quantity of gasoline
d. The greenhouse gases released in burning fossil fuels due to a person’s or organization’s activities
e. Don’t know

16. Ozone forms a protective layer in the earth’s upper atmosphere. What does ozone protect us from?
a. Acid rain
b. Climate change
c. Sudden changes in temperature
d. UV rays
e. Don’t know

17. Which of the following is an example of sustainable forest management?
a. Setting aside forests to be off limits to the public
b. Never harvesting more than what the forest produces in new growth
c. Producing lumber for nearby communities to build affordable housing
d. Putting the local communities in charge of forest resources
e. Don’t know
18. Many economists argue that electricity prices in North America are too low because:
a. They do not reflect the costs of pollution from generating the electricity
b. Too many suppliers go out of business
c. Electrical companies have a monopoly in their service area
d. Consumers spend only a small part of their income on energy
e. Don’t know

19. Which of the following is the most commonly used definition of economic sustainability?
a. Maximizing the share price of a company’s stock
b. Long-term profitability
c. When costs equal revenue
d. Continually expanding market share
e. Don’t know

20. Fair Trade means
a. Synonymous with free trade
b. Requiring market clearing or equilibrium price set by market forces
c. A dynamic of the law of comparative advantage in which countries produce with their strengths
d. The result of lowering barriers to trade and eliminate tariffs
e. An approach to global trade aiming to ensure that producers in developing countries receive a fair price for their products.

21. Many economists argue that electricity prices in the U.S. are too low because:
a. They do not reflect the cost of pollution and other social effects from generating the electricity.
b. Too many suppliers go out of business.
c. Electric companies have a monopoly in their service area.
d. Consumers spend only a small part of their income on energy.
e. Don’t know

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

We developed our assessment with the help of a student project and a review of other STARS institutions.

We administered a survey to a class of undergraduate students, faculty, and staff during the fall/winter of 2019. Our post-assessment will be conducted with the same cohort to determine changes in sustainability literacy during undergraduate degrees at USask.

Further additions were made to the 2023 version of the survey with the help of the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning. Their recently updated Sustainability Competencies for Teaching and Learning were used to gather self-reported assessments of students' sustainability competencies. This will be very helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of the chosen competencies and how they related to graduate outcomes.

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

Our assessment was developed and distributed through the Canadian Hub for Appliad and Social Research (CHASR), an entity at USask that professionally develops and administers assessments like this. They were able to reach a representative sample through consistent recruitment and promotion across campus via lists provided by university administration.

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

The purpose of these surveys was to assess the sustainability literacy and cultural behaviours of the University of Saskatchewan community. The results will be used to inform the University’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Ratings System (STARS) 2023 submission, as well as the University’s actions as related to sustainability in the coming years.

Questions on sustainability knowledge suggests that members of the University of Saskatchewan community are fairly knowledgeable about sustainability-related topics. For most questions, at least two-thirds of participants responded correctly. A high proportion (>80%) correctly identified definitions of sustainable development and the triple bottom line. The items that can be recycled by USask and the City of Saskatoon were largely correctly identified, although aluminum foil appears to be a relatively unknown recyclable material, with only 30.2% of respondents noting that it is accepted in the recycling system.

Perceived abilities related to sustainability communication and engagement varied widely among respondents. However, most respondents reported some degree of ability. That is, less than half of respondents selected the option denoting that they do not engage in the asked-about behaviour or “none of above”. Almost half of respondents reported being able to use a diversity of perspectives and approaches to solutions for sustainability (45.9%) and being able to adapt and apply processes gained in one situation to new situations to address sustainability challenges in original ways (45.7%). More than half of respondents indicated they can listen and respond to alternate, divergent, or contradictory perspectives or ideas fully (52.3%), can understand the needs (59.3%) and perspectives (66.3%) of others regarding sustainability, can consider the ethical implications for adopting or adapting technology to address a sustainability challenge (55.4%), can utilize practices and technologies they are familiar with to address a sustainability challenge (51.7%), and can continually evaluate their motivations and actions to deal with their feelings and emotions regarding sustainability (51.6%).

Website URL where information about the sustainability literacy assessment is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Transparent results of the surveys are going to be on the website soon, as they are being distilled into a reader-friendly infographic. Full results have been included in this submission as additional documentation.

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.