What Affects Attitudes and Behaviors Regarding Environmental Sustainability?

By Mindy Engle-Friedman, Eunjung Lee, Gleb Furman, Martine Maculaitis and Kit W. Cho.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Attitudes and behaviors regarding environmental sustainability were studied nine months apart in two ethnically diverse undergraduate samples (n = 83, n = 297) at a large, urban college in the northeast US.

More than 83% believed that global warming was a threat to the planet, and more than 75% believed water and food shortages posed similar threats. Over 90% believed something can be done to reverse these threats and over 70% believed their actions combined with others would make a difference.

Trust in media was limited, with 25% believing the media accurately portrays, and 30% believing the media under-represents, the seriousness of global warming. More than 50% believed that government policy will be most important in solving these environmental issues.

The more recent sample reported less certainty about environmental threats, greater belief that the media overstates environmental problems and less certainty that governmental policy would be most important in affecting the environment.

Women were more likely to consider environmental threats serious and were more likely to take action. Males became less concerned that global warming was a serious problem and less inclined to believe that they could take action to effect environmental change.

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability, Ethnicity, Attitudes, Behavior, Climate Change

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.41-58. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.901MB).

Dr. Mindy Engle-Friedman

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Mindy Engle-Friedman is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Baruch College, City University of New York. She heads up a team of researchers studying environmental sustainability. Her interests are particularly focused on the influence of personality, attitudes, social context and cultural backgrounds on environmentally sustainable behavior and long term environmental planning. Prof. Engle-Friedman is also the Chairperson of Baruch College’s Task Force on Sustainability. The Task Force joins students, faculty, administration and staff in an effort to bring environmental sustainability to the College’s physical operations, curriculum, research and student activities.

Eunjung Lee

Head of Assessment, Department of Psychology, Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Eunjung Lee is the Head of Assessment in the Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab in the Department of Psychology of Baruch College, City University of New York. She is also a member of the assessment team for the Baruch College Task Force on Sustainability. Ms. Lee’s interests focus specifically on attitudes and behaviors regarding waste reduction, composting and urban gardening. She was responsible for the initiation of a program introducing composting to incoming first year students at Baruch.

Gleb Furman

Principal Investigator, Department of Psychology, Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Gleb Furman is a Principal Investigator in the Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab in the Department of Psychology of Baruch College, City University of New York. Mr. Furman has been responsible for the initiation of a campus wide evaluation of personality and attitudinal factors that contribute to environmentally sustainable behaviors. This research has helped to determine the direction of the efforts of the College’s Task Force.

Martine Maculaitis

Researcher, Department of Psychology, Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Martine Maculaitis is a doctoral student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Baruch College, City University of New York. She is also a member of the Assessment Subcommittee for the Baruch College Task Force on Sustainability. Ms. Maculaitis’s research interests focus on environmental sustainability, corporate social responsibility and social justice, and leadership opportunities and employment outcomes for women and minority employees.

Kit W. Cho

Researcher, Department of Psychology, Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Kit W. Cho is a Researcher in the Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability Lab in the Department of Psychology of Baruch College, City University of New York. He is also affiliated with City College, City University of New York. Mr. Cho serves as lab statistician and has been responsible for the maintenance the lab’s database. He is an NSF REU Grant award winner and will begin his doctoral studies in Cognitive Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany in fall 2009.

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