Emory & Henry students have a high level of interest and involvement in energy conservation on campus and that level of concern has increased for most since they began attending college here, according to a first-ever energy behavior survey completed in April.
The survey, which was a partnership between the college's energy manager and an E&H sociology class, showed that more than 80 percent of respondents agreed that energy conservation and recycling were important. Additionally, more than 75 percent of respondents want to know more about how the college uses energy, and more than half care more about energy conservation since arriving at E&H.
Several knowledge and behavioral questions highlighted areas for improvement. Only half of first-year and sophomore students were able to identify the primary source of fuel for the college's electricity, although juniors and seniors answered correctly nearly as often as members of the E&H faculty and staff.
Student interest in energy conservation provides significant opportunities to make these improvements, according to Jesse Freedman, the E&H energy manager. As an example he points to survey results that show students enjoy longer showers than other members of the community. “This indicates an opportunity to connect the campus community’s existing attitudes with their behaviors and build a culture of conservation,” Freedman said.
While the results of the survey will prove to be useful in planning future energy conservation projects, the most valuable outcome of this project was to raise awareness of energy conservation on campus while providing students with an opportunity to practice and improve the skills necessary for good research, according to Professor Shelly Koch, who led the introductory sociology class that conducted the survey.
Every student at the end of class knew where their energy came from, according to post-project evaluations, and most said they never imagined how labor-intensive and exacting good sociological research is. “At first I was hesitant to do research with intro students,” Koch said, “but they took this project seriously and worked diligently through all phases of the research process.”
Students presented their findings to their peers in class and to the College's Climate Working Group. The survey has been well-received by students, faculty and administrators, who have encouraged students to conduct the survey each year.
Beyond environmental awareness, the survey helps students in their education, Freedman said. “The experience provided students with the opportunity to engage in primary research and learn practical skills that extend beyond the classroom. The students were also responsible for the design and distribution of the survey, which will serve as a baseline for campus energy and sustainability culture. The survey was complemented by qualitative interviews conducted by the remainder of the class.”