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  • AASHE-STARS

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

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.76
Liaison Trina Innes
Submission Date Oct. 10, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

University of Alberta
ER-13: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 2.00 Naomi Krogman
Academic Director of the Office of Sustainability
Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
"---" 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?:
No

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

Part I

1. Please provide up to 5 key words that you would include in your definition of sustainability:

2. What are the potential effects of global climate change? (Choose all that apply)
a) Loss of habitats*
b) Less severe weather
c) Expansion of deserts*
d) Decrease in sea level

3. Globally, communities face a variety of social injustices such as low wages, poor working conditions, and lack of access to education. To help improve communities around the world, you can: (Choose all that apply)
a) Support Canadian corporations that prohibit labour unions
b) Buy fair trade certified products*
c) Make all purchases online
d) Learn how companies you usually buy from conduct business*

4. What are considered the 3 pillars of sustainability?
a) Society, political sphere, the economy
b) Environment, economy, political sphere
c) Society, economy, environment*
d) There are only 2, the economy and the environment

5. All of the following describe the function of biodiversity, EXCEPT:
a) Allows an ecosystem to protect and recover from disease
b) Absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere*
c) Is a source for potential future medications
d) Increases adaptability for possible changes in climate

6. Which of the following is a renewable resource? (Choose all that apply)
a) Oil
b) Iron ore
c) Coal
d) Trees*

7. A technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, from resource extraction and disposal, is called:
a) An annual review
b) A life cycle assessment*
c) An energy audit
d) A thermal system analysis

8. What is meant by the term “carbon footprint”?
a) The total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by a product or person*
b) The carbon left on the ground each time you take a step
c) It refers to the size of the carbon chain in a given quantity of gasoline
d) All of the above

9. More than half of the calories consumed by the world’s human population come from 3 foods. These are:
a) Fish, beans, and millet
b) Chicken, corn, and rice
c) Corn, rice, and wheat*
d) Beef, potatoes, and wheat

10. In Alberta, water use is allocated using water licenses. Which sector is allocated the most?
a) Irrigation*
b) Commercial
c) Industrial (oil and gas)
d) Municipal

11. Of the following sustainability programs and initiatives implemented at the University of Alberta, please indicate your level of familiarity (options: very familiar, somewhat familiar or never heard of)
11a. University of Alberta goal to divert 50 per cent of waste by 2015.
11b. Cleaning for a Healthy U program.
11c. Living wall in the School of Business.
11d. Existence of 400 courses that are directly or indirectly linked to the ecological, environmental, social, and cultural facets of sustainability.
11e. Seek a minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification or equivalent for new buildings.
11f. University of Alberta Sustainability Plan.
11g. Sustainability Awareness Week.
11h. Eco Move Out.
11i. Green Grants and the Sustainability Enhancement Fund.
11j. Student Sustainability Summits.
11k. Campus Sustainability Leadership Award.
11l. Sustainability Speaker Series.
11m. One Simple Act on Campus.
11n. Care For Our Air Campaign.
11o. Reusable Dish Program.
11p. Community Gardens.
11q. Farmers’ Market.
11r. Bike Mechanic and Bike Rental Service.

12. Of the following sustainability programs and initiatives implemented at the University of Alberta, mark the programs and initiatives that you have had involvement in: (Please select all that apply)

□ Taken one or more of the 400 courses that are directly or indirectly linked to the ecological, environmental, social, and cultural facets of sustainability
□ Sustainability Awareness Week
□ Eco Move Out
□ Green Grants and the Sustainability Enhancement Fund
□ Student Sustainability Summits
□ Campus Sustainability Leadership Award
□ Sustainability Speaker Series
□ One Simple Act on Campus
□ Care For Our Air Campaign
□ Reusable Dish Program
□ Community Gardens
□ Farmers’ Market
□ Bike Mechanic and Bike Rental Service

Part II

Assuming the Brundtland definition of sustainability, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, please answer the following questions:

13. What is your level of agreement with the following statements? (Options: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree)
13a. I have a comprehensive understanding of sustainability.
13b. It is important for young adults to understand sustainability.

14. What is your level of agreement with the following statements? (Options: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree)
14a. Technology will have the ability to fix sustainability problems of the present and future.
14b. Environmental stewardship should have priority over economic prosperity.
14c. The natural world has value simply by existing.
14d. I am not concerned about the well-being of future generations.
14e. Better sustainable practices will play a role in limiting the consequences of environmental degradation.
14f. The purpose of the natural world is as a resource for human use.
14g. It is important to preserve the natural world as long as it doesn’t interfere with our economic wellbeing.
14h. It is important to act sustainably so that future generations are not negatively impacted.

15. How often do you do the following? (Options: Always, Most of the Time, Half of the Time, Less than Half of the Time, Never)
15a. Recycle plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard and other recyclables.
15b. Bring a reusable bag when shopping.
15c. Make ethical food choices when possible (eg: organic/fair trade/local).
15d. Buy locally produced or second-hand goods.
15e. Bring my own reusable travel mug/water bottle when purchasing beverages.
15f. Opt for alternative modes of transportation over a personal vehicle (eg: bicycle, carpooling, public transit).
15g. Turn off lights and electronics when not in use.
15h. Refrain from buying a new item if I can reuse a similar item, fix the item I have, or borrow it from someone else.

16. Please rate how important each of the following is to achieving ‘sustainability’ (Options: Very Important, Important, Unsure, Somewhat Important, or Not Important)
16a. Reducing my consumption of non-essential goods.
16b. Reuse goods where possible.
16c. Recycling.
16d. Community involvement.
16e. Economic security.
16f. Increasing my sustainability awareness.
16g. Conserving resources for future generations.
16h. Being aware of the consequences of my actions.
16i. Reducing my contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
16j. Understanding the global effects of my actions.

17. What is your level of agreement with the following statements? (Options: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree)
17a. Sustainability is a factor that influenced me to enroll at the U of A.
17b. It is important to me that the U of A invests in long term initiatives to conserve energy.
17c. I would like the U of A to invest in renewable energy initiatives on campus.
17d. I am willing to be slightly warmer or cooler if the U of A adjusts building temperatures to save energy.
17e. I would like to see the U of A working towards achieving a higher level of sustainability on campus.
17f. I would like to see the reusable dish program expanded to all campus cafeterias.
17g. I am aware of which vendors on campus provide ethical/sustainable products (eg: organic/fair trade/local).

18. What is your level of agreement with the following statements? (Options: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree)

While at the University of Alberta, I would like to….
18a. Learn more about sustainability.
18b. See more options to take courses on sustainability.
18c. Complement my chosen major with a sustainability focused minor, if one were offered.
18d. Participate in workshops focused on sustainable practices (eg: canning food, gardening, bicycle repair).
18. Participate in a student organization or event focused on sustainability.
18f. Have greater opportunities to gain research experience on a topic related to sustainability.

19. What are the main sources where you receive information on sustainability initiatives at the University of Alberta? (Check all that apply)
□ Email
□ Posters
□ The Office of Sustainability newsletter
□ Facebook
□ Twitter
□ Classroom
□ None of the above
□ Other

20. Please rate your interest in the following scenario (Options: Very Much, Somewhat, Not At All, Don’t Know, Strong No):
If you were able to earn a certificate in sustainability during the regular 4 years of your undergraduate degree time at the University, to what extent would this have appealed to you?

21. If you could use the campus as your lab, what would you do to advance sustainability?

22. What kind of experience (classroom course, experiential learning, internship, community service, organizational involvement, opportunity to attend talks and presentations by experts outside of class) would you most likely choose to learn about sustainability?

We are interested in finding out a little more about you. Please answer the following questions.
• Age
• Gender
• On which campus do you primarily attend class? [Please choose from: North Campus, Augustana Campus, Calgary Centre, Campus Saint-Jean, Enterprise Square, or South Campus]
• What Faculty are you a part of?
• What is your year of study?
• Are you a part of any extracurricular student groups outside of class?
• If you answered yes above, which student group(s) are you a part of?


A brief description of how the assessment was developed:

The survey targeted multiple components of sustainability literacy including nine knowledge-based questions as well as sustainable behaviour, values, attitude and concern based questions. The knowledge-based questions had a mixed format, including multiple choice and “select all that apply” questions. They were chosen from studies developed by other institutions, based on the discretion of the researchers. The remainder of the survey employed the use of five-point Likert scales, “select all that apply”, and open-ended questions.

The literacy score was calculated using the participants’ responses to the nine knowledge-based questions. One point was awarded for each correctly identified question. For “select all that apply” questions, one point was only awarded if all correct answers were selected. The percentage of correct answers yielded a sustainability literacy score for each participant.


A brief description of how the assessment was administered:

The data was collected through the online administration of a sustainability literacy survey, which was hosted internally by the University of Alberta’s Test Scoring and Questionnaire Services. The survey was sent to all undergraduate students who were enrolled in the University of Alberta in the 2013 winter term. The participants were given from February 26, 2013 to March 15, 2013 to complete the survey, at which point the remaining survey links were deactivated. To avoid the possibility of multiple entries, each eligible student was sent an individual link to the Sustainability Literacy Assessment Survey via the Office of the Registrar’s undergraduate listserv. Proper steps to ensure confidentiality and anonymity were taken, including approval by the Human Research Ethics Office, the University of Alberta Information and Privacy Office, and the Office of the Registrar. The data was compiled by Test Scoring and Questionnaire Services and securely transferred to the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology.


A brief summary of results from the assessment:

The survey response rate was approximately 6%. 1,735 University of Alberta undergraduate students participated in the survey. The average sustainability literacy score of the knowledge-based questions was 65%. If sustainability literacy is defined by a score higher than 50%, then 80% of the respondents were literate. If it is defined by a score higher than 60%, then 61% of the respondents were literate. If it is defined by a score that is 70% or above, then 36% of the respondents were literate.


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