In the Toolkit --

Introduction

  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Share Your Comments
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Clean Air Defense
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources

    ENGAGING COLLEGE STUDENTS

    Making a Connection

    An estimated 18 million students attend two- and four-year institutions of higher learning in the United States. If you don't already have contacts with some of these students, here are a few suggestions for reaching them.

    Understanding Your Audience

    Many students assess institutions' sustainability and "greenness" as they make their choices for a higher education. This is the first generation of students who have come of age with the knowledge of human influence on the climate, but their level of engagement with climate issues is mixed.

    A report released in March 2010 -- The Climate Change Generation?: A Survey Analysis of the Perceptions and Beliefs of Young Americans -- found that "Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are, for the most part, split on the issue of global warming and, on some indicators, relatively disengaged when compared to older generations." The data offered "no predictable portrait of young people when it comes to global warming." The ideological divide evident in the larger population is present among younger Americans as well, with conservatives more skeptical and less engaged than liberals.

    Focusing on the younger survey respondents, however, the report concluded, "Members of the current college-age generation (18-22 year-olds), who have grown up with even less scientific uncertainty about climate change, are somewhat more concerned and engaged than their slightly older 23-34 year-old counterparts; however, this does not hold across the board. Still, the data suggest untapped potential to engage young Americans on the issue of global warming, particularly relative to shifting the perceptions of those who currently hold moderately skeptical or uncertain views."

    Therefore, just as in the larger population, there will be a diversity of opinion and frames to take into consideration, as described in the Communications section of this toolkit.

    Although these students are the generation most affected by this climate crossroads -- dubbed Generation E by some (for ecology, economy, energy, and equity) -- few are being prepared for the world they will be leading. According to the National Wildlife Federation's 2001 State of the Campus Environment Report, only 8 percent of colleges and universities required all students to take a course covering sustainability concepts.

    Getting Your Audience's Attention

    Many students are actively seeking to meet requirements for volunteer service hours for their social or civic clubs or for graduation. Most are interested in saving money and enhancing their prospects for future jobs. And some have an interest in saving the planet.

    Here are some sample programs for this audience:

    In addition to local activities organized by student groups, tens of thousands of students on hundreds of campuses participate in nationwide programs.

    Making Change Easier

    League members may want to review some of the success stories in NWF's Generation E report for an orientation to options that students at post-secondary institutions are using to respond to challenges posed by climate change.

    This generation of students is accustomed to online networking. One way to help students connect with climate change programs right away is through networking opportunities. Although not specifically for students, 1Sky and 350.org are effective organizations working for a cleaner future through their social networks.

    Other good websites that encourage immediate engagement include Focus the Nation, NWF's Campus Ecology, and the Energy Action Coalition.

    Last updated: 11/4/2013