Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

University surveying faculty, students, staff about sustainability

More than 4,000 U-M students and 1,500 faculty and staff members are being surveyed about sustainability issues this month as part of a groundbreaking, campuswide initiative called the Sustainability Cultural Indicators Project, a partnership led by the Graham Sustainability Institute and the Institute for Social Research.

To learn more about the sustainability survey, contact Callewaert at 734-615-3752 or

The survey — which will be repeated annually — is an outcome of U-M's extensive, 20-month Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment, which concluded last year with a series of ambitious sustainability goals and commitments for the university, one of which is to invest in programs to educate the campus community about sustainability, track behavior, and report progress over time. A diverse team of faculty, staff, and students developed the survey with this objective in mind.

"One priority the provost has charged us with is to use the U-M campus as a living, learning laboratory for sustainability," says Don Scavia, director of the Graham Institute, Graham Family Professor of Environmental Sustainability and special council to the president on sustainability. "What we learn from the survey will be instrumental in helping to advance this important goal."

The survey, which has an annual budget of $80,000 per year, is being led by two principle investigators: John Callewaert, director of integrated assessment at the Graham Institute, and Robert W. Marans, research professor at ISR and professor emeritus in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

The Office of the Provost is providing the majority of the funding, with additional funding from the Graham Institute and ISR.

"The purpose of the survey is to better understand what U-M students, faculty, and staff members know and think about sustainability and what their actions are on a daily basis," Marans says. "Because sustainability is such a multi-faceted issue, the survey questions mirror that complexity and cover a wide range of topics — including transportation, energy conservation, waste prevention, food, and environmental protection."

Two comprehensive questionnaires have been developed: one for faculty and staff (with 67 questions) and one for students (64 questions). Questions cover three primary areas: knowledge/awareness, attitudes/dispositions, and behavior/actions. They also focus on the key aspects of the CSIA: climate action, waste prevention, and healthy communities. The questionnaires are being sent to a representative sample of the campus community.

Reports of survey findings will be provided to related units on an annual basis, so they may continuously monitor trends and developments in sustainability awareness and behavior on campus.

"While many other universities have conducted campus sustainability surveys, the SCIP questionnaire is likely the most comprehensive, longitudinal survey developed on the topic," says Callewaert. "We're already receiving inquiries from other institutions about our process, which is a great testament to the hard work that so many have put into it."