This study aims to deepen the authors’ understanding of higher education students’ perceptions about sustainability issues by focusing on their motivations to adopt (or not to adopt) sustainable practices in their lives. It mobilized the notion of “health” and the potential impacts of climate change on health.
A qualitative and participatory action approach, involving students acting as researchers, was implemented. All psychology students (bachelor’s degree) were trained to conduct semi-directive interviews with students from other faculties on the issues of sustainability and health. In total, 203 interviews were completed within two academic years. The authors performed a lexicographic analysis followed by a thematic analysis.
Analyses showed that the concept of sustainability was unclear for most student interviewees (SIs) and that only a few of them were able to spontaneously connect it with health. Only after being guided throughout the interview did these SIs, mainly geoscience students, become progressively aware of the direct links between sustainability and health issues, such as personal health. The perceived risks of non-sustainable practices were higher when they directly affected the body itself, and this encouraged adoption of more sustainable practices.
This research enables the authors to identify specific interventions to decrease the gap between awareness of sustainability and sustainable practices. These interventions may be more effective if they aim to sensitize students to the direct impacts of non-sustainable practices on their personal health. This can be made possible by using creative learning activities that involve active participation of students.
Schweizer, A., Miserez, S., del Rio Carral, M. and Santiago-Delefosse, M. (2018), "Students’ experience of sustainability: health as a lever for action", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 498-517. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-06-2017-0077Download as .RIS
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