Investigating Community Attitudes Toward Sustainability

Laurelin Haas
Living Lab leon county project
Students utilized online resources to research attitudes toward a wide range of sustainability topics in Leon County and beyond.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, students in Dr. Tingting Zhao’s Sustainable Society course were able to conduct primary research across a range of sustainability topics.

Dr. Zhao, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, partnered with the Leon County Office of Sustainability and challenged students to utilize online survey tools to investigate community attitudes towards sustainability.

“The class was definitely affected by the COVID situation,” acknowledged Zhao, “especially in the design of the questionnaire and analyses of the collected data. But I believe the preliminary results will be useful.”

29 undergraduate students in the Fall 2020 IDS 2227 course worked in small teams to investigate topics including perceptions of nuclear energy, recycling behaviors, and attitudes towards food production. The students designed survey instruments and implemented research online through social media and other platforms. With data collected, students used statistical tools to analyze their data and provide recommendations for future actions.

Overall, students felt that it was eye opening to apply sustainability challenges to their local community.

Example of a team objective

“It allowed me to reach out to a large audience, meet new people, create connections, and learn more about the challenges we face in making cities more sustainable,” said a participating student. “It was a great experience, and I learned so much along the way - as well as from other groups!”

The students’ research is anticipated to help the Leon County team improve community outreach and programming.

“It was great learning about the research each group conducted over the course of the semester,” said Tobias Raether, Sustainability Programs Coordinator for the Leon County Office of Sustainability. “The wide array of topics the students focused on and their findings will certainly help inform our future work.”

Example of student research

To learn more about the Leon County Office of Sustainability, visit

To learn more about the Campus as a Living Labs program, visit