Study reveals stark disparity in students’ opinions and understanding of sustainability and their scepticism towards government and business promises
- Students are changing the way they live due to concerns about the climate crisis – research reveals top four behavior changes students are making
- 61% of students report climate change is having a significant impact on their lives today
- More than 72% of students believe the promises made at COP won’t be kept
DENVER, October 26, 2022: With COP27 on the horizon, recent research has revealed the need for continuing education on key issues regarding sustainability, and a deep skepticism from students about government and businesses commitment to addressing climate issues.
The study found 61% of students reported climate change is having a significant or very significant impact on their life today. Additionally, two thirds (66%) of US students surveyed recognized the importance of Carbon Literacy, and many are changing the way they live their lives to help address the climate crisis.
But despite students and younger professionals being a driving, vocal force in addressing climate change, the study finds there is still a need for continuing climate change education. Specifically:
- Better definition of terms – While we use terms like carbon sink and carbon footprint, there is lack of agreement on the definition. For example, 40% of students don’t know what carbon footprint is.
- The debate over nuclear energy as a clean energy source continues, with 25% of students identifying nuclear as a clean energy source. Men are almost twice as likely to identify nuclear power as clean than women.
- Social media is enormous power in climate information and misinformation. The study found the three most popular channels for students to get news on the environment and sustainability are YouTube (53%), TikTok (49%), and Instagram (41%). This reinforces the importance of fighting climate misinformation on these platforms.
The research was commissioned by Yugo - the first global student housing operator created to enhance students’ experiences throughout and beyond university life - as part of a global research project studying over 6,000 students across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Australia and the US. More than 1,000 students were polled in the US.
The study has shown just how important long term education programs are for creating further awareness of the sustainability challenges we face and how behavior change can tackle them – something that Yugo’s pillar - YugoEco has been developed to support.
Encouragingly, students are playing their part in helping to combat the world’s environmental challenges. The top four behavior changes cited due to concerns about the environment were:
- Buying fewer disposable products (38%)
- Actively trying to reduce energy use (35%) although women are 10% more likely to turn off lights than men.
- Travelling using more environmentally friendly means (30%), with 12% more men than women saying they travel green
- Deliberately purchasing from sustainable companies (25%)
Students are expressing their concerns in a number of ways, with 10% of students signing petitions and more than 890,000 US students taking part in a demonstration. Women are twice as likely as men to express their concerns via petition.
Students are skeptical and demand action
With COP27 just weeks away, students are very skeptical about government and business driving progress against climate change. More than 72% of students believe the promises made at the recent COP26 won’t be kept. The two most popular reasons why were because politicians lie (34%), and companies put profit over the environment (31%). Interestingly, women are 8% more likely to be skeptical of companies which means they will need to do more to convince them that efforts are not greenwashing.
Students say companies have a duty to address climate crisis. Encouragingly, management students are slightly more likely than their peers to believe this (66% vs 63%).
When it comes to making a difference, Apple wins again, with 22% of students indicating it is most active in fighting the climate crisis. But students maintain their skepticism, with 28% of students believing no company is doing enough.
Helen Strachan, Sustainability Specialist at Yugo, said:
“There is often a misunderstood assumption that students have a homogeneous view on the environment and sustainability, but this research presents a far more complex picture. There are huge differences of opinion and knowledge when it comes to some of the biggest challenges the planet is facing, which is understandable given the vast amount of information out there on what is one of the most multifaceted issues of our time. This study shows the need for further understanding of these critical issues.
It’s uplifting to know that students are changing their behavior. As companies operating in the field of higher education, we have a duty to support students to live the most sustainable lives they can, which is why sustainability plays a key role in our holistic living program.”
As part of its commitment to sustainability, Yugo has partnered with The Carbon Literacy Project and is officially a Bronze Level Carbon Literate Organization. The next objective is to reach Silver Level Carbon Literate Organization status to ensure more employees have the knowledge needed to reduce their own and Yugo’s carbon emissions.
Emma Richards, Head of Project Development, The Carbon Literacy Project said:
“Carbon Literacy is an essential skill, vital to every workplace, community, and place of study. This research only demonstrates this further. Carbon Literacy is the foundational knowledge – it gives everyone the base level of understanding on climate change needed to drive positive action. However, Carbon Literacy is only the first step. The actions taken and pledged by learners as part of their Carbon Literacy have an immediate impact within their organization, however it is the maintenance of these and further actions, supported by Carbon Literate organizational culture, that reaps the greatest rewards for both participants and their organizations. By becoming a Bronze accredited Carbon Literate Organization, Yugo has demonstrated its commitment to driving genuine low carbon action in their own organization and among the students they serve.”
Yugo’s unique approach
Yugo also empowers its students to grow personally through collaborative events and projects under the Live Your Best Life program - a holistic living experience developed from the Yugo research of thousands of students worldwide. This program supports students through three pillars based on sustainability - YugoEco, education – YuPro, personal and professional development - YuGrow, to deliver on their needs and expectations.
- YugoEco sees Yugo coming together with students to create better living spaces and a better planet through several initiatives. These include low energy usage programs on the importance of living more sustainable lives for students, and global partnerships with like-minded businesses for events, education and student experiences.
- YuPro is all about empowering young people beyond higher education and to help prepare them for their careers and their professional development. Yugo is also offering training sessions in areas such as career advice, real life experience, coaching and empowerment.
- YuGrow encourages Yugo students to shine by supporting their personal journey through events and activities in Yugo spaces, including student podcasts, diversity events and global student networking opportunities. Yugo has pledged to provide students with the most sustainably sourced chair and mattress – these were key findings from Yugo research as critical to their life to support both their physical environment and their emotional needs.