Student engagement with sustainability : understanding the value–action gap

CHAPLIN, Gareth and WYTON, Paul (2014). Student engagement with sustainability : understanding the value–action gap. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 15 (4), 404-417.

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Link to published version:: 10.1108/IJSHE-04-2012-0029


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of research that aimed to determine what university students living in Unite accommodation in the UK understand about the concept of sustainable living. It considers what barriers they perceive to be standing in the way of following sustainable living practices. In particular, the research aimed to explore any value–action gap for the student population with a view to informing future actions to help close any gap.

Design/methodology/approach – The study was completed through an online questionnaire survey of students living in halls of residence operated by provider The Unite Group Plc. The survey informed semi-structured interviews and focus groups that explored the issues raised in greater detail.

Findings – It was found that students living in Unite properties believed sustainable living to be important, yet levels of understanding were very low and there appeared to be a wide value-action gap. Reasons for this are varied; however, an unexpected theme emerged around the association of effort and importance. There was a very strong association between sustainable living and recycling, which, therefore, saw the lack of adequate recycling facilities as a significant barrier to sustainable living. There were also issues around a lack of information, cost and respondents’ flatmates as further barriers. However, the most significant barrier was the displacement of responsibility for sustainable living to other people or organisations.

Originality/value – Gaining an insight into the complexity of attitude and behaviour of students with the sustainability agenda will enable understanding that can be applied to activities that promote sustainability.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Business School Research Institute > Service Sector Management
Identification Number: 10.1108/IJSHE-04-2012-0029
Depositing User: Hilary Ridgway
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2014 11:42
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2016 00:13

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