Students Explore Community Attitudes Towards Sustainability

Laurelin Haas
Fall 2021 Screenshot

Undergraduate students in the Fall 2021 IDS 2227 Sustainable Society class conducted primary and secondary research to explore community attitudes towards a variety of sustainability-related topics.

Dr. Tingting Zhao, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, challenged her students to use the skills they gained in the classroom to help Sustainable Tallahassee survey the community. Sustainable Tallahassee is a non-profit dedicated to promoting environmental, economic, and social sustainability in the regional area through education and collaboration.

Sustainable Tallahassee members provided the students with a preliminary list of research topics and questions that were of interest to the local community. The organization’s priorities included wages, natural gas, diet, and transportation. Using these ideas as a starting point, the students worked in small teams to develop research questions, conduct a literature review, administer a survey, and analyze their results.

“The collaboration was very helping in terms of pointing students in the right direction,” said Zhao.

The student teams examined a wide variety of topics, including public attitudes towards public transportation, sustainable agriculture, the usage of natural gas, and eco-minimalism. In total, the students collected responses from over 350 survey participants, and they utilized statistical analysis techniques to demonstrate the applicability of their sample data to broader populations.

“When I think of sustainability, public transportation doesn’t come to mind as quickly as, say, recycling,” said a participating student. “This project helped me go more in-depth on a topic that I might not have chosen without the input from Sustainable Tallahassee.”

The students presented their work for representatives of Sustainable Tallahassee, who can utilize their data to inform future programming and communications. Shawn Youngblood, President of Sustainable Tallahassee, was gratified to see that the students’ research emphasized the importance of education and access in promoting sustainable behavior change.

“Our primary focus is education and public discourse, so it is heartening to know that our work does have an impact,” said Youngblood. “The extent of the impact is less important than just knowing our work is useful, and I appreciate the students for showing that.”