Sustainability survey looks at how students conserve, and where Georgetown can improve
In January, Project Hilltop and the Campus Sustainability Advisory Board conducted a ‘sustainability survey’ among students that looked to quantify what Georgetown students think and do about conservation on campus. Vox has the report, which compiled the results of 645 student responses, and we’ve summarized it below.
What do we want to see Georgetown doing?
Transparency was a big issue for students who responded to this survey. “Overwhelmingly, students want to know, ‘What is Georgetown doing?’” the report on the survey results said students asked in the free-response section.
Students also consistently brought up Leo’s, asking that the University reduce food waste, offer a more varied menu, more information on preservatives used in food, and the elimination of non-biodegradable disposables. “Students also ask[ed] about workers’ conditions and ask that lights be turned off when Leo’s is not in use,” the report said.
Some called for more recycling bins and education, and asked that the University focus more on waste reduction than recycling. Students complained of leaking sinks, faucets, and showers in residence halls, and extreme temperatures in dorms and classrooms. Some wanted to see easier and better transportation efforts, such as buses to basketball games.
Rating Georgetown’s sustainability efforts
Among conservation efforts that Georgetown has undertaken, students reported the most amount of satisfaction with the University’s recycling capabilities, with about 56 percent of respondents saying they are satisfied or very satisfied. Only 41 percent said the same about the efficiency of the University’s transportation. Thirty-eight percent were satisfied with efforts to educate about sustainability, and with disposal of natural waste.
Students reported the lowest rates of satisfaction with the University’s efforts to purchase local or organic food; to invest in sustainable funds and maintain endowment transparency; to reduce carbon emissions; to offer courses in sustainability; and to use alternative energy sources.
At the same time, students said they knew little of Georgetown’s sustainability efforts in several categories, with about 50 percent unsure of efforts to invest in sustainable funds and maintain endowment transparency, and about 41 percent unsure of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, to offer employees a livable wage; and to pursue LEED certification for its new buildings.
What we use and what we recycle
In descending order, here are the products that Georgetown students use the most: paper; plastic; ink cartridges; aluminum cans; cardboard; batteries; glass. (The average student clearly spends less time at Vital Vittles than Vox writers).
In descending order, here are the recyclable products students find easiest to recycle in class or the office where they spend the most time: paper; plastic; aluminum cans; glass; cardboard; ink cartridges; batteries. Fewer than 50 students found batteries and ink cartridges easy to recycle, and only about 100 students said they found cardboard easy to recycle.
The products students found easiest to recycle in their residences are, in descending order: aluminum cans, plastic, paper, and glass, with at least 400 students reporting that they find these items easy to recycle at home; cardboard; and fewer than 100 students reports that batteries and ink cartridges were easy to recycle at home.
How far will we go to recycle?
The majority of students who responded to this portion of the survey—about the maximum distance they would go to recycle a bottle or can—said they would walk a few hundred feet to a recycling bin. Sixteen percent said they would walk a few hundred yards to another building to recycle, and another 16 percent said they would walk as far as necessary.
One percent of students admit that they never recycle.
As far as other student sustainability efforts go, many students reported good habits, but few thought that their peers “always” had environmentally responsible behavior, like turning off the lights when leaving a room. From the report:
“More than 65 percent of respondents say that they “always” turn off lights when the leave a room, but only 4 percent of respondents believe that their peers “always” do the same. Similarly, 44 percent of respondents say they “always” recycle in their home/apartment while they believe only 3 percent of their peers do the same.”
The report’s recommendations
The report recommends that Georgetown do five things as it moves to create a more sustainable campus. The first is two collaborate, that is, bring other departments into efforts to make Georgetown more environmentally friendly. Facilities could maintain more efficient cleaning and repairing practices, while academic departments could maintain better office practices.
They also recommend better student education, saying that students need to understand the “complexity of sustainability”—that is, how it applies to social justice and the economy. Tied to that, Project Hilltop argues that Georgetown must do a better job of advertising its sustainability efforts to increase and encourage participation.
The report also recommends that Georgetown devote resources to improving areas of sustainability where it’s already seen success, like waste reduction and recycling, and assess sustainability behavior to “help show how the University is best poised to move forward on educating its community.”