Greening the campus without grass: using visual methods to understand and integrate student perspectives in campus landscape development and water sustainability planning

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Abstract:

Water, once thought to be a limitless resource, is now recognised as finite and one of the most contentious, uncertain issues of the future. While universities are one of the largest users of potable water in the urban landscape, they are also widely regarded as leading sources for innovative solutions and showcasing ways forward in environmental sustainability. However, universities are also sites of power where decisions are often made without democratic engagement with their major stakeholders: students. This paper is part of a larger study that examines how undergraduate students in geography (n = 98) perceive and value water conservation initiatives on an urban Canadian campus. The research involved administering a survey focused on identifying barriers to participation in sustainability initiatives and how involvement in sustainable activities on campus can alter the landscape. An important part of the survey, and the focus of this paper, was to examine how participants evaluated and ranked photographs of prospective campus landscape images and how they perceived its value. This method offers a way forward from how the traditional expert‐based mapping and development of the campus landscape can effectively incorporate student values. Emphasis is placed on the desirability of student‐based involvement in the evaluation and mapping of future land use development on the campus. Implications of communication barriers between students and policymakers are discussed with suggestions as to how student values, identified through the use of alternative landscape imagery, can be integrated into traditional landscape development and campus planning. Recommendations are made as to how community mapping, which enables communities to share information through a mapping structure, can be utilised to facilitate unique, inclusive and sustainable landscape planning, and to help integrate future student‐directed sustainability projects.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01001.x

Affiliations: 1: School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada. 2: School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J5, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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