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Sustainability survey assesses students’ environmental knowledge

Sustainability @ Boston University has released answers to the survey it conducted in January to gauge the BU community’s knowledge of the school’s sustainability efforts.

The survey was intended to help better plan future efforts, programs and communication with the BU community, said Sustainability @BU outreach coordinator Lisa Tornatore.

“We expect the survey will help us to understand our community better so that we can design engagement programs that fit the BU community,” she said. “The working definition of sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Basically, let’s try to maintain our home so that it may sustain our way of life in the future.”

Changes were made in the survey from when it was last released in 2011 to further challenge students to consider the importance of sustainability, Tornatore said.

“This year’s survey was designed very differently from the last survey in that it contained more challenging questions related to sustainability issues such as climate change, greenhouse gases and actionable things people in the community can do,” she said.

Tornatore said the new questions were inspired by standards set by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, who rates BU annually for its sustainability efforts.

“One major change to this year’s survey is the inclusion of general sustainability ‘literacy’ questions which is a encouraged by the AASHE STARS program,” she said. “BU has reported to STARS for three years in a row and has received a Silver rating each year.”

Encouraging students to consider sustainability during their college years allows them to think past their own needs in favor of the common good, said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore.

“It’s a way that we can think about a larger issue than ourselves, and that’s what I like about it [sustainability],” Elmore said. “You can think about broader economics, you can think about broader moral themes — there are a whole lot of ways that you can incorporate sustainability and the notion of global climate change into your lives, and I hope people get a chance to learn more about that while they’re here.”

Elmore said BU is an ideal place for students to integrate good sustainability habits into their everyday lives.

“Being at the university is a great opportunity for students to learn about how they can incorporate sustainability into their lives, and I hope they can incorporate it into their lives without it being a hassle,” Elmore said.

Alex Greene, a School of Management freshman, said the average student is probably not interested in sustainability.

“The average student probably understands the bare minimum about sustainability: that it has something to do with the environment,” Greene said. “I didn’t know that BU had a Silver STAR rating. I probably got that wrong on the survey.”

Whitney Pech, a School of Education senior, said while the school promotes sustainability well, it is not a topic BU students have interest in.

“The school is doing a good job at working toward that [sustainability,] but the students don’t have as much of a priority,” Pech said. “They’re in college, they’re not really thinking about sustainability right now.”

Gigi Jordan, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences second-year graduate student, said encouraging good sustainability habits during college years is essential to educating the future generations on preserving environmental resources.

“We’re learning to live away from our parents,” Jordan said. “Teaching those habits now really has an impact on the future. When you’re at home, you think ‘it’s just this one container’ but when you’re standing in a line of people recycling you’re like ‘oh wow, that really does make a difference’.”

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  1. I would say it was a great survey. BU has done a good thing to know a student’s opinion.