Sustainability in university residence halls: designing accessible programming and infrastructure to promote environmentally relevant behavior on campus
Diener, Jane Blake
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College and university students living in green residence halls or learning more about environmentally relevant behavior (ERB) may obtain benefits in many ways, including improved health, productivity, and environmental knowledge. Universities may also benefit from the personal growth in their students, cost savings, and positive publicity. This study sought to determine whether living in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified residence hall or a residence hall with increased environmental programming would affect students’ ERB. Additionally, this study examined any perceived constraints to students seeking to participate in ERB. This study examined data from three treatment groups at the University of Georgia using a pretest and posttest survey, which was tested during a summer 2013 pilot test. The Immersion-based treatment group (1) was in Building 1516, which features sustainable amenities. The Program-based treatment group (2) was in Brumby Hall, where students had additional environmental education programs in their residence hall. The control group was in Reed Hall, which lacks sustainable amenities or programs. A survey was created and implemented, pretest and posttest, electronically (via Qualtrics) and in person. A pretest was administered during fall 2013 and fall 2014. A posttest was administered during spring 2014 and spring 2015, respectively. Across all treatment groups and semesters, 1,023 unique students took a pretest survey (n = 557), posttest survey (n = 356), or both (n = 110). Results indicate while initiatives that students are engaged in outside of residence halls may be more influential than campus housing programs in regard to ERB, campus housing departments can provide students with convenient and accessible environmental education initiatives that they will engage in. Overall, this dissertation established a framework for research on environmentally relevant behavior among students living on college or university campuses.