Here is what she wrote:
“As colleges across the country take steps to become more environmentally sustainable, many ask the question ‘Do students really care?’, or more importantly: ‘Will students actually choose one college over the other because of a colleges’ commitment to being green?’
As the co-founder of myUsearch, a free and unbiased online service that matches students to colleges, I would really like to know the answer to this question. After looking into this however, I found very conflicting opinions.
Although I can’t scientifically back up my opinion, I have a hunch that the majority of students do care whether their college or university is taking steps to be green. According to a recent study, students prefer green degrees and this article claims that college students and recent grads prefer jobs with green companies. This evidence leads me to believe that students do care, however I’m not so sure that ‘being green’ will actually influence a student’s college choice.
College Confidential recently asked this question in a forum and the answers from the 74 responding students ranged from ‘Yeah, I could care less.’ to ‘A school that didn’t show any initiative on taking responsibility for their impact on the environment would’ve definitely turned me off.’
From this non-statistically significant sample, I would conclude that students do care, but not enough to choose one college over the other. This thinking would be in line with another recent study that concluded that MBA’s will ultimately choose green money over a green environment. The study surveyed 527 MBA students at 12 top-ranked international business schools. 95% of the students ranked career opportunities as “extremely” or “very important” factors in selecting an employer, but only 34% of the students viewed a company’s environmental policies with the same importance.
Is this study conclusive? Don’t be so sure.
In contrast to the MBA study, The Sierra Club makes a strong claim that students do care:
“Unless you’ve got a trust fund, you’ve got to make a buck. But many students are unwilling to give up their ideals to do so. Some 200,000 seniors at more than 100 colleges have signed a Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility, initiated at California’s Humboldt State University in 1987. Participants promise to consider sustainability along with salary at any job they’re offered, and to work to improve the practices of any company that employs them. Their ranks are likely to keep multiplying: According to a recent survey by KeyBank, an educational loan provider, this year’s freshman class is more concerned about the environment than the job market they’ll face upon graduation. And with green business a growth industry, the ribbon pledgers wear at commencement may be just what recruiters are looking for.”
Now I’m even more confused, but there is one more thing. Could this discrepancy indicate a generational shift? Now’. we might be on to something.
When I looked more deeply at the College Confidential Forum, I realized that most of the people who felt ‘being green’ was not important, were older respondents. The most memorable comment:
‘If meeting my university’s power needs is cheaper with dead dinosaurs than it is with wind power, then as a trustee I would demand that the money used to soothe our green egos go towards the real mission of the university–towards faculty recruitment/retention, research, financial aid, etc.’
However, many of the younger (and in my opinion smarter) respondents seemed to place environmental sustainability higher on their priority list. My favorite comment, from a very astute UVA 2012 student, makes a strong argument against the comment above:
‘Environmental sustainability is often tied to economic sustainability, and even a sense of entrepreneurship. You may think it’s tree-hugging and hippyism, but think about the fact that the cost of living due to energy prices will probably be skyrocketing in twenty to fifty years — living in an environmental dorm may be in fact be cheaper than living your own home. I suppose not now — but if your school is conducting environmental efforts — then it’s likely that its engineering department is innovative and ecologically-minded. Environmentalism and sustainable economics go hand-in-hand. Perhaps in 30-50 years, energy prices will make conservation science the new i-banking.’
So now what is my conclusion? Although I still have a hunch that ‘being green’ does not strongly influence student’s college choice today, I have hope that one day it will. Our future depends on society’s willingness to demand environmental responsibility and I sincerely hope students will start demanding more from their colleges.
What do you think? Does it make a difference? Do you students care? Please comment.
And more importantly, for all of you forward thinkers, here are a few links to help you find a green college or degree program that demands environmental responsibility:
We think that Elizabeth asks some great questions, and the only way we can truly have one correct answer is to get all colleges involved in one way or another with going green.