Predicting Student Sustainability Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors: Effects of Demography, Environmental Science Education, and Sustainability Intervention Programs at Georgia Southern University
This mixed-methods research approach assesses trends in sustainability knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in the student population at Georgia Southern University (GS). Students completed a baseline survey in order to determine their knowledge and attitudes about sustainability and what sustainable behaviors they perform. A total of 1,328 useable responses to the baseline survey were gathered. Effects of race, academic class, gender, and prior completion of an environmental science course were tested, as well as the effect of campus (Statesboro and Armstrong). Previously taking an environmental science course and race/ethnicity were the two strongest indicators of knowledge score. Males scored higher than females in sustainability knowledge, but females reported more positive attitudes and more sustainable behaviors than males. The Statesboro campus reported more sustainable behaviors than Armstrong. Three short-term sustainability intervention programs modeled after formal, informal, and non-formal educational methods were then implemented with the aim of 1) increasing student knowledge and pro-environmental attitudes, and 2) determining if one educational method had more of an effect than the others. The three programs included a lecture, a sustainability focused documentary, and a campus walk with accompanying litter pick-up. A post-survey was given immediately after completion to measure the effectiveness of each program. A total of 363 students participated in the intervention programs and post-survey. Student knowledge increased after completion of any of the three programs, but student attitudes only significantly increased after attending the lecture. This research suggests getting students involved in environmental education programs increases their knowledge and has somewhat of a positive effect on their attitudes as well. Recommendations to universities based on the results include making environmental education more inclusive, implementing extracurricular environmental activities on campus, and requiring environmental science as a course for all students.