Date of Award

2013

First Advisor

Anne O'Dwyer

Second Advisor

Don Roeder

Third Advisor

Stuart Levine

Abstract

Every day millions of pounds of garbage enter the waste stream and unfortunately most of it ends up in landfills or is incinerated; less than one-quarter is recycled. Considering the numerous environmental benefits to recycling—including preventing virgin extraction, preserving ecosystems and saving energy expenditures—recycling behaviors should be promoted to help preserve the natural environment and promote sustainability. Although psychology has developed numerous explanations for why people recycle (or not) as well as various persuasive techniques to promote recycling, how psychological processes can effectively promote recycling is still unclear. In an effort to promote recycling among college students, this study examined the use of three types of bi-weekly feedback: (1) general percentage of waste recycle, (2) progress toward group recycling goals, and (3) tangible benefits (energy saved) by recycling to students on a small liberal arts college campus. Although participants’ average recycling rates increased across the eight weeks of the study, the sample sizes were small enough that the changes were generally not statistically significant and no differential effect of feedback was found. Results regarding recycling by dorm, floor, day of the week, and feedback type are presented and discussed, as are implications for future research and recycling policies.

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