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Dr. Scott Steele Presents Environmental Study

Dr. Steele, an environmental and resource economist, has gathered data over two years through web-based surveys to test for changes in environmental behaviors and attitudes among undergraduate students at Berea College. An investigation into the effects of taking a Sustainability and Environmental Studies course was a primary interest of the study.

To measure environmental behavior, Steele used the contingent valuation method, a prominent method in the environmental economics literature. Contingent valuation is particularly valuable when environmental goods are at issue because are not exchanged through the market as they have no price. In the case at hand, the good in question was the provisioning of electricity through renewable means at Berea College. A contingent valuation scenario was designed to determine if students would be willing to pay a “renewable energy premium” on their term bill to pay for capital investment in renewable energy technologies on campus. At present, students cannot “buy” renewable energy, even at a premium. Using the results of a contingent valuation survey of this sort can play an important role in determining whether or not the benefits of renewable energy investments would exceed the costs.Dr. Steele’s second analysis aims to determine the factors that influence changes in environmental attitudes for students. The analysis constructed a change variable and attempts to determine factors such as sex, year in college, ethnicity, major, and whether or not they have taken a SENS course, had a significant impact on the likelihood that there was a change in environmental attitude and if such a change portrayed a positive or negative outcome.

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