Promoting Sustainable Literacy at Higher Education Institutions


Fall 2012 - Spring 2013


All college students should experience and understand sustainability, but few universities have been able to perform an assessment of their students’ sustainability literacy. This comparative case study at ten of the largest U.S. universities relies on data from AASHE STARS reports, campus sustainability websites, and interviews with sustainability staff to determine what the Universities are (not) doing to promote sustainability literacy among their students. Generally, the Universities lack sustainability learning outcomes, lack incentives for faculty to develop sustainability curricula, and have few sustainability courses. Some sustainability outreach programs are common (those related to general/integrated sustainability issues, recycling, and residence hall competitions that promote energy conservation and/or recycling) while others are uncommon (those related to water conservation, alternative transportation, and nature/wildlife). Based on these findings, I propose recommendations aimed at developing sustainability courses, creating sustainability outreach programming that incorporates uncommon themes, improving sustainability communication/marketing, and evaluating students’ conceptions and attitudes using a sustainability literacy assessment.




Brent Ribble


Charlotte Clark, Tavey Capps


Sustainable Duke, Nicholas School of the Environment

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Campus Engagement, Curriculum, Research, sustainable literacy