Energize Worcester

Sponsor: University of Worcester  Energize Picture
Sponsor Liaison: Katy Boom
Peng Li
Student Team: Michael Duclos, Maxwell Foster, Kathryn Murphy, Brian Rubenstein
Abstract:  Our project, sponsored by the University of Worcester, looked into how recycling habits affect students’ accommodation choice. We performed door-to-door surveying, receiving 74 survey responses. Furthermore, we spoke with members of facilities about recycling on-campus. We found no solid relationship among students’ recycling habits and their accommodation choice, but found that the main reason they do not recycle is lack of bins. We recommend looking into optimal placement for disposal sites to help increase recycling among students oncampus.

Powerpoint: Analysis of Student Recycling Habits and Housing Choices

Report: EnergizeWorcesterReport

Executive Summary

Imagine a world with no electricity, fresh water, or raw materials. With no electricity, many modern conveniences, like computers and phones, would be impossible. With no freshwater, humanity would need to quickly evolve or go extinct. With no raw materials, production of common goods would grind to a halt, setting back civilization hundreds of years. It is our responsibility as a species to safeguard these resources. To this end, universities are a logical place to begin instilling this ethic.

The Energize Worcester Program was formed to improve the sustainability practices at the University of Worcester and the surrounding areas. Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability at the University of Worcester, reached out to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute London Project Center requesting students to survey University of Worcester students or residents to collect information on students’ sustainability habits.

Specifically, the goal of our project was to work with Energize Worcester to determine whether or not University of Worcester students consider sustainability, most notably accessibility of recycling, when choosing where to live. In order to accomplish this goal, we developed the following seven objectives.


Objective One: Research Factors that Influence Housing Choices for University of Worcester Students
Objective Two: Assess Factors that Influence Housing Choices for Students with Unknown Recycling Habits
Objective Three: Assess the Impacts that Recycling Habits have on Housing Choices for Students who have shown Good Recycling Habits
Objective Four: Assess the Impacts that Recycling Habits have on Housing Choices for Students who have shown Poor Recycling Habits
Objective Five: Compare Results from Previous Objectives
Objective Six: Collect Follow-up Information
Objective Seven: Create a Report and Presentation for the City of Worcester and Energize Worcester Representatives


Although we did not find a correlation between student housing choices and recycling habits, we discovered findings which could still be useful for future research and projects in this field. We received survey responses from 74 University of Worcester students (see Appendix B for our survey). We also gathered data from the University of Worcester, Director Katy Boom, Energize Worcester Project Manager Peng Li, and facilities staff to bolster our findings.

Student Priorities

Out of the 74 responses to our survey, 70 of the respondents completed a chart where they told us how influential each of ten items was when choosing where to live, on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is least important and 7 is most important. The 10 items we asked about were: cost of rent, whether bills are included, location, social life, size, high quality interior, ease of recycling, neighborhood, landlord, and length of contract.

Student Priorities
Figure 4.1: This graph shows how much each of these items influence student housing decision on average for 70 responses

The item which these students rated as most important was cost of rent, at an average of 6.04/7.00, where the total averages across all priorities was 4.80/7.00. Inclusion of bills and location are both important at averages of 5.84/7.00 and 5.55/7.00 respectively. On the other hand, the lowest rated priority was ease of recycling, at an average of 3.13/7.00. For the purpose of this survey, ease of recycling was defined as: a measure of distance to recycle bins and effort required to recycle. However, neighborhood appeared to be similarly unimportant with an average rank of 3.71/7.00.

To Stay or to Move?

Of the 60 first year students who took our survey, 93% of them said that they are considering moving into privately rented accommodations for the next year. Based on University policy, second and third year undergraduates are not guaranteed a place to stay on-campus. (University of Worcester, 2015)

Reasons Students Move to a new Accommodation

Reasons to move

Figure 4.2: Student priorities when moving

The most notable reason to move (33% of 52 responses) was that students preferred the new housemates that they would be living with. Next highest reason was rent costs, at 25% of 52 responses. In contrast, change of neighborhood and closer location to the University were almost completely ignored on this question.

As for staying in the same home, 47% of those who answered (15 of the 32 respondents) stated the main reason they wanted to stay was that they liked their current housemates. The rest of the responses were fairly evenly distributed, and were negligible by comparison. According to the survey respondents, social factors and money are the two largest concerns for students when choosing where to live.

Reasons that Students Recycle

The survey respondents who do recycle usually do so for two main reasons: 1) because they want to help the environment, or 2) because it is made easy by the University. Eighty-two percent of the 74 total respondents said that they do recycle. Of those who recycle, 10 of the 47 responses to why students recycle were related to the bins being available and recycling being easy to do, whereas 25 respondents said they recycle because they wanted to help the environment.

Reasons that Students Do Not Recycle

On the other hand, one significant reason that students do not recycle is that they do not believe that it is easy to acquire new bins. Some students had their bins broken or lost, and never had the bins replaced. One student said, “We don’t have clear recycle bins”. Bin replacement is free for students. To get them replaced, students must submit a request online. It is possible that vi there is a lapse in communication between the students and the facilities department. The other reason that students do not recycle is the effort required. Of the 22 respondents that answered the question of why they do not recycle, nine of the answers explained that effort was a primary reason

Materials that Students Recycle

One question on our survey asked students to explain how often they recycle certain materials. Figure 4.4 is a graph that shows the results. Our survey results revealed that cardboard, glass, metal, paper and plastics are recycled more frequently than the other items.

Recycling of Different Materials

Figure 4.4: How much students recycle these different materials


A result of any good research is identifying new areas for exploration. Consequently, we developed ten recommendations. Our first recommendation is that a new project look into successes and pitfalls that previous projects have faced. We learned that communication and a large amount of time to survey are critical to success. For more survey responses, we recommend starting surveys earlier in the University of Worcester academic year to increase student availability. We also recommend continuing surveying for similar information among students living off-campus. Our recommendation is that a group begins research during the month of November, as most students have not started house hunting by November, but have settled into school. Furthermore, looking into the effect that the January housing fair has on student housing priorities could also prove enlightening. We also recommend liaising with landlords to gather factual information about these accommodations.

In order to gain additional information on student recycling habits, we recommend that the University of Worcester conduct further research into students’ disposal habits. Specifically, we recommend assessing: how the distance to disposal areas affects students’ habits, how often students take out the trash, and why students appear to be lacking bins.

In order to determine a relationship between recycling habits and students’ accommodation choices, we recommend gathering additional data on both student behavior and on concurrent years of student recycling behavior.

Finally, to facilitate increased recycling, we recommend incentivizing recycling efforts. Another way to obtain more survey responses is to survey in a couple of specific locations. Specifically, the largest number of surveys we obtained was when we moved around getting responses from seated students at lunch. To collect even more survey responses, we also recommend knocking on student doors at specific times. Times we noted as most helpful were 16:00 to 18:00 and 20:00 to 21:00. We recommend avoiding the slot from 18:00 to 20:00, as many students are out to supper at that time.


Although our goal focused exclusively on recycling, there are a host of issues which fall within the domain of sustainability, from reduction of material and energy consumption, to reuse of these materials. It is important to teach sustainability to students at universities in order to develop good habits for these students before they enter the workforce. A number of great and longstanding projects have been started at the university level, such as the Green Impact. Once students begin to develop good sustainable behaviors, they are more likely to take these green projects and ideas into the world.