The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy: a survey of adult environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors

SEEK Updated
Resource Types: 

A survey of adult environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors

Minnesota residents continue to encounter a variety of environmental issues. What knowledge and skills do they need to be able to solve these issues? It is clear that Minnesota needs an environmentally literate citizenry-one that has knowledge about, and attitudes toward the environment and the issues that in turn may affect behaviors related to the environment.

What does environmental literacy mean? People who are environmentally literate:

  • understand the complexity of natural and social systems and their interrelationships.
  • demonstrate the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivation, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward sustaining a healthy natural and social environment.
  • have the capacity to perceive and interpret the health of environmental and social systems and take appropriate action to maintain, restore, or improve the health of those systems.
  • The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy (2008) documents the results of the third statewide survey concerning the environmental literacy of adults in Minnesota. For the report cards, 1,000 Minnesota adults were surveyed by telephone for their knowledge about, attitudes toward, and behaviors related to the environment. The results of these statewide surveys have been summarized in report cards, where responses are broken down demographically and compared to related survey questions in studies performed in Minnesota, by other states, and nationally.

    In The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy questions on energy and climate change were included along with general knowledge, attitude and behavior questions. The first report card (2002) included questions on urban sprawl and in the second report card (2004), questions on water.

    Some of the findings in the third report card include:

  • 93 percent of Minnesotans support environmental education in schools.
  • 85 percent participate in recycling programs.
  • 67 percent believe that renewable energy is the best means to meet America's energy needs.
  • 41 percent of Minnesotans reported that they frequently purchase locally grown food.
  • time spent outdoors in a non-work capacity ranged from 12 percent reporting five or fewer hours per week outdoors to 7.4 percent reporting more than 40 hours per week outdoors.
  • It is important to conduct similar surveys in the future. By continuing to collect information about Minnesotans' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, we can track trends in environmental literacy and highlight any appropriate changes to our education efforts.

    Survey Instrument
    From August through November 2007, a random sample of 1,000 Minnesota adults answered a series of questions in a telephone survey conducted by Marketline Research. A copy of the entire survey is available in Appendix A. See Appendix C for the final frequencies of responses to each individual question.

    The Minnesota environmental literacy survey was developed with members of the working group (see acknowledgements page of the report). The survey instrument includes questions from various National Report Cards on Environmental Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors (referred to as National Environmental Report Cards in this report) conducted by the National Environmental Education Training Foundation and Roper Starch Worldwide, previous Minnesota report cards and other surveys. Questions were also developed specifically for this survey.

    Data Analysis
    Data from the survey interviews were analyzed using frequencies of occurrence and the Pearson Chi-Square, which tests the relationship between two variables and reports statistical significance. One set of variables in this report is the demographics (gender, age, education, location, income), while the other set is the questions from the survey.

    The respondents to the survey were divided according to specific demographics to allow for analysis of the data. The demographics selected were gender, age (18-34, 35-44, 45-64, and 65 and over), education (high school, some college, college degree), location (seven-county metro, other metro areas in the state, non-metro or rural areas), and income ($30,000 or less, $30,001-$50,000, $50,001-$75,000, and over $75,000). The Pearson Chi-Square determines a statistical relationship between two variables, in this case, demographics and the questions.

    Organization of the Third Report Card
    The Third Report Card is divided into four parts. The first three discuss specific sections of the survey: knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The final section offers an integrated perspective to the overall report and environmental literacy research.

    It is important to remember that this survey and report are not an evaluation of the public, but rather a further collection of information concerning the knowledge about, attitudes toward, and behaviors related to the environment in Minnesota. This will be used with the previous report-and future reports-to track trends and changes in environmental literacy as Minnesota adults are surveyed again at various points in the future.

    The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy was written by written by Anthony Murphy, Ph.D. and Andrea Olson, Ph.D., of the College of St. Catherine, with funding from the MN Pollution Control Agency.

    For More Information
    To read and/or download The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy go to

    If you have questions concerning The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy contact Dr. Tony Murphy at, 651-690-6711.

    Anthony Murphy, Ph.D. and Andrea Olson, Ph.D., of the College of St. Catherine
    Topic Areas: 
    Target Audience: 
    Geographic Location: 
    All Minnesota
    Enhancements / Connections: 

    The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy (2004), The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy (2002); Environmental Literacy Scope and Sequence

    99 pp.
    Date Produced/Published: 
    Library loan: 
    Is training required?: 
    Contact(s) or order information.: