GSL Index data highlights that there is still a lot of work to be done to close the gap between student values and their behaviour when it comes to environmentally friendly practices.

Environmental and social responsibility is important for students. When it comes to choosing which university to study at and where to live, environmental issues factor into the decision process. The GSL Index 2023 Q2 data highlights that the university’s reputation for being socially and environmentally responsible was an important factor for 51% of international students and 37% of students from the UK.  Not surprisingly, recycling and environmental facilities are lower on the list of priorities for students when searching for somewhere to live, however, the availability of these facilities influenced the accommodation decision for 22% of international students and 20% of students from the UK. In fact, recycling and environmental facilities matter more to students than parking and travel time to their jobs.

Once students are in their accommodation, most are satisfied with environmental and recycling facilities, although international students are more likely (70%) to say that these facilities are good or very good than students from the UK (64%). That said, 4% of international students and 6% of UK students would pay more rent in return for improved recycling and environmental facilities.

Other key insights include:

  • Students in private halls are more likely (55%) to say that their accommodation provider is committed to reducing its impact on the environment than those in university halls (46%) and are also more likely to say that their accommodation team encourages them to reduce their impact on the environment (48% vs 36%).
  • Students in university halls are more likely (44%) to say that they have access to advice on being environmentally friendly (e.g. recycling and energy efficiency) than those in private halls (34%).
  • Students in private halls are more likely to say they know how to recycle in their current accommodation, and 18% of students across each accommodation type say that their environmental behaviour is much better since living in their current accommodation (compared to 11% in 2022). Despite this, there is no difference between university and private halls when it comes to the number of students who report that most of their flatmates recycle – with 51% of students across both accommodation types reporting that their flatmates recycle.
  • Private hall residents are also more likely than those in university halls to say that they are not willing to save energy if it means limiting the use of appliances (such as TVs or heating) (33% vs. 19% of students living in university halls.

Although students in private halls appear to be exposed to more visible activity around the environment, they are less likely to be concerned about climate change than those in university halls (74% vs. 81%) and more likely to believe that any changes to their behaviour will have no effect on climate change (34% vs 24% of students in university halls).

GSL Index data from 2022 also highlights that 87% of students believe that their accommodation should do more to reduce its environmental impact. This data is congruent with ONS research which found that in general, those aged 16-24 believe that large companies should make changes before individuals. However, it is not clear why students in university halls are more likely to believe that changing their behaviour will impact climate change. Working to better understand these issues will be important for providers in closing the gap between student values and behaviours.

The upcoming GSL Live event will include a keynote address on Empowering Student Wellbeing and Climate Action: Nurturing Sustainable Mindsets in Student Accommodation, as well as case studies on the lessons learned, challenges faced, and replicable strategies for sustainable student accommodation. Visit the GSL Live event page for more information.