Keywords: Environmentalism, conservation, wastefulness, ecology

Introduction to Environmental Sustainability

Compost, recycle, or landfill?  The initiative to reduce the carbon footprint is often a shared mission for an entire university.  While specific environmental programming for student affairs professionals is unique to each university, the goal of sustainability is often incorporated into other campus assessments.  Understanding student environmental sustainability practices may be especially important for areas of student affairs that are interested in assessing changes in conservation longitudinally.  Furthermore, student affairs professionals (specifically those in health/wellness and recreational activities) may find it necessary to assess if students are learning to be more environmentally productive while using their services. 

When Would You Measure Environmental Sustainability?

Student affairs professionals may want to measure sustainability if their goal is to gauge:

  • Student’s ability to identify ways to reduce their environmental impact
  • Achievement of environmental stewardship outcomes
  • Causality as to why or why not students choose to be sustainable
  • Learning of positive environmental conservation practices
  • Changes in reported environmental conscientiousness over the course of a program/semester
  • How systematic implementations at the molecular level can influence a campus at a molar level (e.g. how do conservation posters around campus improve environmental conscientiousness for all students?)



Those wanting to measure sustainability may find it helpful to start their research by reviewing similar evidence-based literature:

Sustainability, Student Affairs, and Students (Kerr & Hart-Steffes, 2012)

  • This chapter reviews how student affairs professionals need to work with their university to develop specific learning outcomes for sustainability. They mention different initiatives that campuses have implemented in the past through collaboration with those in academic affairs. 


An integrated approach to achieving campus sustainability: assessment of the current campus environmental management practices (Alshuwaikhat & Abubakar, 2008)

  • These authors provide a general review of environmental practices across different levels of a university and propose a model of environmental sustainability. This model details how multiple disciplines across a campus (such as transportation services, health and wellness services, and governmental representatives) must work together to improve sustainability.


Frequently Used Instruments/Measures

The following instruments/measures have been used to assess sustainability:

  • Commitment to Environmental Sustainability Scale (CESS)
  • Attitudes Towards Sustainable Development Scale (ATSD)


Don’t Think This Construct Matches Your Assessment Goals? Check Out These Related Constructs: Motivation, Engagement

Back to Top