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The Main Findings of our Carbon Offset Survey

Published May 7, 2008

by iris_author

Earlier this year a group of us at IRIS began surveying the York student community about their opinions of climate change and carbon offsetting. The online Carbon Offset survey was a result of the exciting and precedent setting carbon offsetting initiative for course kits launched between the York University bookstore and Zerofootprint.

In all, around 500 student members of the York community, representing all of the University’s diverse faculties, were surveyed. This is about 1% of the York student community, which we were satisfied gave us a statically accurate picture of the range of opinions.


Impact of Paper Production Background Information

-York produces 75,000 course kits a year.

-If produced using 100% virgin paper this would result in 131.5 tonnes of CO2 being emitted.

-If produced with 30% post-consume recycled paper this amount of course kits would emit 116.9 tonnes of CO2.


To put these amounts into context, one tonne of CO2 is equivalent to running the average North American home for 60 days.


Major Findings

1) In response to the question asking who should take the most responsibility for acting on climate change issues: government, industry, individuals, institutions, or everyone because we all have equal responsibility, we were quite surprised to find that 70% of respondents said that everyone must share responsibility for acting. The second highest group, at 17%, placed the onus on government. This seems to signal a shift in which students at York recognize that all segments of society have a responsibility to do something about an issue as complex as climate change. Our finding supports some of the results of a recent Harris-Decima poll on the New Environmentalism. In response to a question about whether industry or individuals were the most responsible for addressing climate change, 79% of the 10,000 surveyed, stated that both are equally responsible.

2) York students are willing to pay significantly more for environmentally friendly products or services. Our survey first asked, "are you willing to pay more", and if so, how much more? 65% of respondents were willing to pay more, and 49% said that they’d be willing to pay 5-10% more. That is up to 10 cents on the dollar.

One concern that was raised about our survey was whether a disproportionately high number of Faculty of Environmental Studies students were responding. In fact, while there were a high number of FES students taking the survey, they were not more than 14%, and when their responses were excluded from the results, we found that the fundamental trends and results did not change. In the category of those willing to pay 5-10% or even more for environmentally-friendly and sustainable products, we found that 70% of the students outside of FES were willing to do this, while 83% of the Environmental Studies respondents would pay 5% or higher prices. Clearly, willingness to be environmentally friendly in one's personal decisions is not a direct feature of one's personal educational choices and social views. Nor does the Faculty of Environmental Studies have a monopoly on York students who are concerned about the environment.

3) The last significant finding was that a majority of the York community surveyed would like to see investment in environmental initiatives at the local level in renewable energy or energy conservation projects. While respondents could select all three investment choices; renewable energy, energy conservation, and tree planting, renewable energy was the most popular choice at 72%. Interest in local offsetting initiatives was the most popular choice, at 55% said yes, with the Toronto area gaining the highest support. Other options included York University, Ontario and Canada.

Overall, the survey results will help the development of future climate change and sustainability initiatives at York University. The York community, like Canadians as a whole, are concerned about the environment and realize that responsibility belongs to everyone.

For full survey results contact IRIS.

Posted in: IRIS News