Log In

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 66.35
Liaison Ben Champion
Submission Date May 2, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Arizona
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 4.00 Benjamin Champion
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 (i.e. an assessment focused on student knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges)?:

Which of the following best describes the literacy assessment? The assessment is administered to::
The entire (or predominate) student body, directly or by representative sample

Which of the following best describes the structure of the assessment? The assessment is administered as a::
Standalone evaluation without a follow-up assessment of the same cohort or representative samples

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment(s):
A sample of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment or the website URL where the assessment tool may be found:

See the attached PDF above.

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

The assessment was developed based on a review of current assessments used by other universities. In addition, we wanted to ask at least one question regarding each of several major sustainability "systems" issue areas: waste, climate change, energy, water, food, transportation, social justice, and ecosystems health. We customized questions in each of these topic areas to relate directly to the systems based in Tucson and southern Arizona, to maximize relevance to our student body. Finally, we were also using this survey instrument to update our student commuting data for another section of STARS, so quite a number of questions in the survey relate to commuting habits of students.

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

The assessment was administered online during late November-early December 2015, and polled a representative randomly selected sample of the entire UA in-person student body, including undergraduates and graduate students at the main UA campus in Tucson. Remote campus populations and online students were not sampled. The sample size of 1,621 students represented an 18.6% response rate, and was demographically similar to other campus-wide surveys of the entire student body. The sample is statistically representative of the UA student body.

To encourage a higher response rate, all participants who completed the survey were given the opportunity to win one of five gift cards worth $50 each, winners being randomly selected from those who completed the survey. This is common practice among campus-wide surveys of this type at UA.

A brief summary of results from the literacy assessment(s), including a description of any measurable changes over time:

The major findings of the assessment indicate that UA students have a fairly firm grasp of very basic concepts of sustainability like where their water comes from and what is a renewable energy source. However, their knowledge breaks down rather quickly as we either ask more abstract questions, or dig deeper into how these systems work, and what people can do to make a difference. A sampling of some key questions and the level of correct responses is below:

Q1: Which of the following best defines global sustainable development?
52% indicated "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations"

Q2: If trash is put in a recycling bin, what happens to it"
25% partially-correctly indicated "The recycling and trash stay mixed, and usually are down-cycled into low-value recycled-content products"
39% partially-correctly indicated "A sorting facility filters out all the trash from the recycling"

Q3 Recent U.S. policy shifts have sought to reduce reliance on what fossil fuel due to its impact on climate change?
37% correctly indicated "coal"

Q4: Which of the following is a renewable energy resource?
86% correctly indicated "sunshine"

Q5: Where does the water come from to support Tucson's more than 1 million people?
86% correctly indicated "we pump water up from the Colorado River"

Q6: Water supply from the Colorado River that supplies Phoenix and Tucson with water is:
64% correctly indicated "in structural deficit - we use more water than is naturally available"

Q7: Which form of transportation has the highest amount of energy use and carbon emissions per person per mile?
73% correctly answered "single person driving in a car with average fuel efficiency"

Q8: Which form of transportation has the lowest amount of energy use and carbon emissions per person per mile?
24% correctly answered "riding in a train"

Q9: Please indicate which statement is most correct
63% correctly answered "lower income populations are more vulnerable to greater environmental impacts than middle- and upper-income populations"

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

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.