Sustainability Surveys

Sustainability is a core value at UNH. We therefore believe that it is important to engage with the UNH community to better understand the degree of knowledge about sustainability, as well as attitudes, values; and beliefs, and the degree to which our stakeholders are aware of, and engaging with, sustainability on campus. One way we do this is through surveys. Surveys help us to develop benchmarks for various initiatives as well as to inform ongoing and new projects.

Student Literacy Assessment

UNH conducts a regular sustainability literacy of our students to help us evaluate the success of our sustainability education initiatives and develop insight into how our programs and initiatives can be improved. Our sustainability literacy assessment focuses on knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges among our student body.

Our student sustainability literacy survey is an instrument we have been using for several years. It was originally developed by assessing best practices for sustainability literacy assessments at other higher education institutions. Our survey was developed and then vetted by the UNH Research Office. The first assessment was undertaken in November 2016. A follow-up assessment was administered in April 2017. We repeated the survey again in the Spring of 2020 to allow us to assess students who would have been first years in 2017 and then graduating seniors. While we used the 2017 instrument for our 2020 survey to allow meaningful longitudinal data, starting in Spring 2022 we will be redesigning the literacy assessment to reflect evolving terminology and best practices in the field of sustainability.

We work collaboratively with the UNH Survey Center, our professional on-campus quantitative research experts. They host the assessment on UNH's Qualtrics platform. All undergraduate students at UNH are sent an initial email, with subsequent follow-up emails, introducing them to the assessment, linking it to UNH's commitment to sustainability, and encouraging them to participate.

Invitations to complete this survey were sent to all 12,472 undergraduate UNH students on April 21, 2020 and a reminder was sent on April 27. Of those, 433 UNH undergraduate students responded, yielding a response rate of 3.5%. The response rate was lower than in previous years (15%) but understandable given the timing in the first few months of the global health pandemic, and still provided a robust summary for meaningful analysis.  Twenty-six percent of responding UNH students were currently Freshmen, another 26% Sophomores, 23%  Juniors, 25% Seniors, and 1% another academic standing. Only 4% of responding UNH students are between 15 and 18 years old, while nearly nine in ten (89%) are between 18 and 24. Five percent of respondents are between 25 and 34 years old and 1% each are between 35 and 44 or between 45 and 54. Three in ten (30%) responding UNH students say they are pursuing their degree in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture while 21% are pursuing their degree in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Slightly fewer responding students are pursuing their degree in the College of Liberal Arts (17%), the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics (15%), or the College of Health and Human Services (15%). The response rate by college was a little different to the distribution of the student body by college, with slight over-representation among COLSA students, and underrepresentation by COLA and PAUL students.

Questions test understanding of the definitions and a series of factual questions on sustainability issues and concepts. (Please note in 2017 and 2020 we administered a combined sustainability literacy and values/behaviors/beliefs survey. Starting in 2021 we have separated the two surveys, with a survey of values/behaviors and beliefs that will be administered every other year to all students (as well as faculty and staff) and the (new) student survey of sustainability literacy which will be administered every other year (in the opposite years.)

Responding UNH students were slightly less knowledgeable than in 2017 when asked to identify the correct answers to a series of factual questions concerning sustainability. Just over a quarter of respondents answered 90% or more of the questions correctly, while three in ten answered less than 80% correctly. Participants were particularly less likely than in 2017 to be able to correctly identify why many economists argue that electricity prices in the U.S. are too low, the primary function of wetlands, and the primary reason for the depletion of fish stocks. Those who do not consider sustainability to be overly important on average answered fewer questions correctly.

Nearly all responding UNH students agree that sustainability includes cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.

Full Results

 Click here to view or download the student literacy and culture assessment.


Assessing Sustainability Culture Among Faculty, Staff and Students

Background

UNH regularly conducts an assessment of campus sustainability culture. This survey focuses on sustainability values, behaviors, and beliefs, and also assesses awareness of our various campus sustainability initiatives. This survey is a key way the UNH Sustainability Institute evaluates the success of our sustainability outreach and education initiatives and helps us develop insight into how our initiatives can be improved.

The survey is administered by the UNH Survey Center, our professional on-campus quantitative research experts. Prior to the launch of the surveys, the leadership of the UNH Sustainability Institute contacted Deans and Directors across the University giving them a heads up that their faculty, staff and students would be receiving an invitation to participate in the annual survey. We asked Deans and Directors to send their units a message talking about the value and importance of the survey (especially in light of sustainability being a key component of all four of the UNH President's four strategic priorities, and one of the key performance metrics) and encouraging their units to participate. An email then went from the leadership of the UNH Sustainability Institute to faculty, staff and students with a similar message and inviting their participation. Two additional reminders went out during the survey period.

The survey is hosted on UNH's Qualtrics platform and built and administered by the UNH Survey Center.  Because of the ongoing high level of Covid-related communications to students, faculty and staff during the period, we opted to send the survey to a representative sample as follows:

  • Faculty/Staff (50% random sample)
  • Students only seniors (100%)
  • Other undergraduate students (33% random sample)

Participants were asked to answer a range of demographic questions to ensure the sample was representative. The responses were analyzed by staff at the Survey Center and the reviewed and discussed by staff at the Sustainability Institute.

Invitations were sent to a random sample of half of UNH faculty and staff (N=2,027). Of those, 333 faculty and staff members completed the survey between April 22 and May 12, 2021, yielding a response rate of 16%.

Invitations to complete this survey were sent to all Durham Seniors and a random sample of one-third of the remaining undergraduate student body (N=6,381) on April 22, 2021. Of those, 252 undergraduate students completed the survey between April 22 and May 12, 2021, yielding a response rate of 4%. Data were weighted by student class standing to targets provided by UNH to make the results representative of the UNH undergraduate student body.

Results from the Faculty & Staff Survey

Knowledge of UNH Sustainability Initiatives: Among sustainability initiatives at UNH, responding UNH faculty and staff report the greatest awareness of UNH’s platinum rating by STARS, how UNH composts food waste and uses it for fertilization, and how the majority of energy used by the Durham campus comes from methane and small dams. By contrast, only one in eight have heard that much about how UNH employees have access to ESG qualified investment options or how more than a quarter of the UNH endowment is invested in ESG qualified investments. Faculty and staff report most frequently hearing about these initiatives through direct email communications and through colleagues.

Sustainability Values and Beliefs: The vast majority of responding UNH faculty and staff agree that sustainability includes cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors, but only about half say they feel empowered to contribute to sustainability at UNH or that their lifestyle has become more sustainable since arriving at UNH. Only one in eight say they considered sustainability when they chose UNH. Respondents aged 25 to 34 are more likely than others to feel empowered to contribute to sustainability, feel that their lifestyle has become more sustainable, and to have considered sustainability when they chose to work at UNH. A majority of responding UNH faculty and staff believe the UN's definition of sustainable development is a collective commitment to human dignity and wellbeing for all people and ecological integrity in all places while one-third say they don’t know. Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNH faculty and staff are most likely to say they are currently engaging or are likely to engage in achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, and ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being. Respondents are least likely to report being engaged or being likely to engage with promo􀆟ng sustainable economic growth that allows poor nations to improve quality of life and wealthy nations to reduce excessive consumption, reducing inequality within and among countries, or strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development. Faculty and staff who work or teach in the College of Life Sciences & Agriculture are on average more likely to be currently engaged in these SDGs or say they are likely to do so. Nearly two-thirds of respondents agree that the 17 SDGs should be elements of a single integrated approach that requires all goals to be met simultaneously.

Engagement with Sustainability Activities: Seven in eight responding UNH faculty and staff say they always or most of the time use a reusable water bottle or other container and about half say they always or most of the time make food choices with broader impacts in mind and seek out products and services from sustainable companies. Relatively few report frequently volunteering, contacting elected representatives, selecting sustainable investment options, attending lectures and events on sustainability, participating in political organizing and social movements, or participating in university gatherings to facilitate change on campus.

Importance of Sustainability: More than 95% of responding UNH faculty and staff say that sustainability is very or somewhat important to them personally and seven in eight say that sustainability is very or somewhat important to them professionally. Those who work or teach in the Colleges of Life Sciences & Agriculture and Engineering & Physical Sciences are more likely than others to say sustainability is very important to them personally and professionally.

 Click here to view or download the results.

Student Survey

Knowledge of UNH Sustainability Initiatives: Among sustainability initiatives at UNH, responding UNH students report the greatest awareness of UNH's initiative of composting food waste and using it for fertilization, UNH being one of the few universities in the to offer a dual major in sustainability open to any major, and UNH earning a platinum rating from STARS. By contrast, less than one-fifth have heard that much about how UNH guarantees free tuition to NH students receiving Pell grants, how a quarter of the UNH endowment is invested in ESG qualified investments, and how UNH has launched a program to increase the diversity of UNH’s faculty. Respondents report most frequently hearing about these initiatives through direct email communications and through friends.

Sustainability Values and Beliefs: The vast majority of responding UNH students agree that sustainability includes cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors, but only about half feel empowered to contribute to sustainability at UNH or say that their lifestyle has become more sustainable since arriving at UNH. One in three considered sustainability when they chose UNH. Responding students are considerably less likely than in 2020 to say their lifestyle has become more sustainable since enrolling at UNH. Six in ten responding students believe the UN's definition of sustainable development is a collective commitment to human dignity and wellbeing for all people and ecological integrity in all places. Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), responding UNH students are most likely to say they are currently engaging or are likely to engage in taking urgent action to combat the climate crisis and its impacts and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. Students are least likely to report being engaged or being likely to engage with promoting sustainable economic growth that allows poor nations to improve quality of life and wealthy nations to reduce excessive consumption, ending poverty in all forms everywhere, and strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development. Three-quarters of students agree that the 17 SDGs should be elements of a single integrated approach that requires all goals to be met simultaneously. Men are less likely to be currently engaged or be likely to engage with the SDGs and are less likely to believe they should be elements of a single approach.

Engagement with Sustainability Activities: Seven in eight responding UNH students say they always or most of the time use a reusable water bottle or other container and about half say they always or most of the time seek out products and services from sustainable companies or make food choices with broader impacts in mind. Few report frequently volunteering, attending lectures and events on sustainability, participating in political organizing and social movements, participating in university gatherings to facilitate change on campus, or contacting representatives.

Importance of Sustainability: Seven in ten responding UNH students say that sustainability is very important to them personally, with nearly all the rest saying it is somewhat important. Freshmen and those pursuing a degree in the business school are less likely to say that sustainability is very or somewhat important to them.

 Click here to view or download the results.