Factors affecting environmental sustainability habits of university students: Intercomparison analysis in three countries (Spain, Brazil and UAE)

Emilio Chuvieco, Mario Burgui-Burgui, Edson Vicente Da Silva, Khalid Hussein, Khaula Alkaabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an analysis on the environmental habits of university students in three countries: Spain, Brazil and United Arab Emirates (UAE). We tested three hypotheses: The first is that sustainability indicators will be higher for students of environmental related degrees than for those of other disciplines, as the former should have greater interest in environmental issues. The second hypothesis stated that sustainability habits of students from environmental majors will be higher for those in upper level courses than for those in lower level courses, as they would be better informed about ecological problems and the importance to act. The final hypothesis was that sustainability practices will be higher for students with higher environmental concern. Other potential drivers of sustainability habits such as gender and country were analyzed as well. The study was based on questionnaire results from a sample of 1011 students from three public universities, one in each country. The survey included students’ self-ranking frequency for 25 sustainability habits, using a Likert scale (1–5). Three indicators were defined to measure differences in students’ environmental behavior: 1) the sum of values for all 25 sampled sustainability habits, 2) a two-group sustainability classification of students, based on a multivariate cluster analysis, and 3) the self-perception of students’ consumerism, as defined by the proportion of their ordinary purchases that they considered as basic needs. Non-parametric tests were used to assess the statistical significance for the different tested hypotheses. Results showed that the field of study and the self-perceived environmental commitment were significantly associated with students’ sustainability habits in two out of the three indicators, while the year of study for environmental students was not found significant in any of them. None of the three explicative factors, field of study, year of study, or environmental concern were significantly associated with students’ self-perceived consumerism. Country differences were statistically insignificant, whereas gender differences demonstrated higher sustainability values for females in 2 out of the 3 indicators in Brazil and Spain, but it was not significant for Emirati students. The irrelevant influence of year of study for students of environment-related disciplines conveys an interesting debate on whether current environmental university education should not only impact knowledge but also students’ sustainable mentality and practical behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1372-1380
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - Oct 10 2018


  • Consumption
  • Environment
  • Environmental concern
  • Habits
  • Sustainability
  • University students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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