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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 57.39
Liaison Tina Woolston
Submission Date Nov. 12, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Tufts University
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.47 / 4.00 Tina Woolston
Office of Sustainability
"---" 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) :

The following question asked about respondents' knowledge of the definition of sustainability:

1. Which of the following comes closest to what “sustainability” means to you? Sustainability is about…
- meeting the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
- the shared responsibility for improving the quality of life for all—economically, socially, and environmentally—now and for future generations.
- humans living within the bounds of natural/environmental systems.
- I don't know.
- Other (please specify) ____________________

The following assessed participants' knowledge of the relative impacts of various carbon-generating activities:
4. To what extent do you believe each of the following contributes to Tufts' carbon footprint (amount of greenhouse gases produced)?
- Electricity used in campus buildings
- Commuting to campus by faculty and staff
- Commuting to campus by students
- Air travel paid for by Tufts (e.g. athletics travel, faculty and staff travel)
- Heating campus buildings
- Other

Questions were also asked to assess students' knowledge of recycling options available to them and other sustainability efforts taking place at Tufts. Additionally, questions about attitudes, values, and behaviors were asked (see attachment).

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

This survey was a graduate student project. The student worked for a year developing and testing the questions in focus groups.

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

The survey was administered by sending an email out to all students on all campuses. Students from the Boston and Grafton campuses, as well as the Fletcher School, were surveyed in the Spring of 2011. The rest of the Medford campus (e.g. undergraduate and graduate students from the Arts, Sciences and Engineering schools) was surveyed in the Fall of 2011. The survey was sent to all students. Students were incentivized to respond with a $100 gift certificate. However, they were not required to respond.

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

Question 1: Most students had a reasonable understanding of what sustainability means and how it can be applied to their lives at Tufts.

Question 2: Slightly less than one-third of students said that environmental policies and practices had some importance to their college search. Over one-third, however, said that they did not consider environmental practices in their college search.

Question 3: For most topics, students were unaware of sustainability practices Tufts has engaged in. Unless they came into contact with those practices regularly, as with lighting motion sensors, organic produce in dining halls, or having an Office of Sustainability, students remained fairly unaware of most sustainability goals and practices at Tufts.

Question 4: Students seem aware of contributions to Tufts’ carbon footprint, but there seems to be confusion as to what contributors add the most to Tufts’ carbon emissions.

Question 5: More than half of the student population is aware that Tufts recycles various forms of electronic waste. Roughly two-thirds of the student population is aware of what can be recycled in the paper, plastic, glass, and metal recycling bins on campus. In only rare cases students stated that an item was not recyclable at Tufts; instead they stated that they were unsure of an item’s recyclability.

Question 8: Within seven days of taking the survey: 85.6% of students turned off lights when leaving a room; 85.5% of students recycled; 7.8% turned off the water while brushing their teeth; 76.1% used a reusable beverage container; 70.9% walked or biked instead of using a vehicle; 61.0% used a backpack or reusable bag in lieu of a plastic bag when shopping; 49.2% washed clothes in cold water; 46.2% used the “power-save” settings on their computers; 44.8% unplugged their appliances while not in use; 37.0% bought locally grown or raised food; 34.2% drove a car; 16.3% composted; 14.5% purchased disposable water bottled; 5.8% reported a leak or other utility waste concern.

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

Similar surveys of the undergraduate dorm residents have been done since 2012, although the results may not be representative since students self-select to take the survey.

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.