Energy Initiative Blogs

What Don't You Know and How Do You Test it?

by User Not Found | Jul 22, 2015

            During the Spring 2015 semester at UIC, I had the opportunity to do a survey study. I was interested in finding out what UIC students know about sustainability. I always knew about sustainability as a grassroots movement. I never really thought about it as a science... until very recently. What was suppose to be a presence study for the Energy Initiative turned into a personal research project to find out what students don't know.
            Of course, I did have to narrow down my question after going through some scholarly articles. If there was so much information about sustainability that I don't know, then how much info do UIC students don't know? While this was still a HUGE area to thread, it was a starting point. Eventually, after asking around and researching some stuff from the Office of Sustainability at UIC, I found that there were a bunch of protocols and organizations that UIC students can join or follow. 
            As an *cough* unbiased *cough*decision (biochemistry major alert) I decided to find out what UIC students enrolled in SEL classroom wet labs were aware of for the Spring 2015 semesters. This survey was conducted online on Qualtrics following UIC IRB protocol for educational purposes for class. I asked 5 basic questions involving student awareness for sustainable practices for classroom wetlabs AND UIC-affiliated green programs/organizations.  For participation, there was a raffle for some prizes.
            The response was huge! With over 100 responses, I was surprised to find that a lot of students didn't find something basic like recycling gloves as sustainable. In fact, a lot of students also wanted to know more about some programs like SISE and the Green Lab Committee. However, it's important to keep in mind that most of the students at SEL were taking science classes for engineering and the physical sciences. Programs like these were part of their interest, and students were simply unaware of their existence.
            Another interesting thing was that some students were aware of the more uncommon green practices, like mercury thermometer disposal and chemical wastes separation of halogenated solvents from non-halogenated solvent. From this survey, it gave an me an idea of how such a big campus still needs improvement on bringing available resources to the student population's interests. 

Sustainability is a growing field for the growing student interest. I hope to do another survey or study similar soon.