Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Katherine Cushing


Campus Outreach, Ecological Footprint, Environmental, Footprint Challenge, Sustainability, University

Subject Areas

Environmental studies; Environmental education; Environmental science


Estimates suggest that humanity requires one-and-a-half Earths to sustainably provide the resources demanded. Observed consequences of this are rising atmospheric carbon, loss of arable land, fishery collapse, drinking water scarcity, and irreparable degradation to the Earth's ecosystems. The ecological footprint is a tool that calculates the amount of land needed to support a population or an individual's level of resource use. The action of calculating an individual's footprint has been shown to improve knowledge about environmental issues, change attitudes about natural resources, and increase understanding about the connection between one's actions and the environment.

This research examined the impacts of a sustainability campaign on the pro-environmental behaviors of students, faculty, and staff at San José State University (SJSU) using an online ecological footprint quiz. It involved promotion of the campaign, administering the ecological footprint via an online survey, educational outreach on reducing one's footprint, and measuring reported behavioral change over a seven-month period. An ecological footprint study of this scale using the pre-test and post-test method had not been attempted before. Data collection also included focus groups for investigating why people changed their lifestyles during the study period. On average, participants in the footprint challenge decreased their ecological footprint by 10.3%. By comparison, individuals who attended one of the monthly sustainability lectures reported a 17% decrease in footprint