Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Planning, Design, and the Built Environment

Advisor

Ellis, Cliff

Committee Member

Dyckman , Caitlin

Committee Member

Reinking , David

Committee Member

Bratton , Susan

Abstract

Experts agree that overconsumption is a major problem in Western culture today, particularly in the United States. Thus, it is important to promote sustainable behavior among the general public. And yet, existing educational programming geared toward promoting such behavior changes remains appealing largely to environmentally-motivated audiences, as opposed to individuals with alternative (i.e., social and economic) motivations. In response to this discrepancy, I conducted a formative experiment with the goals of: 1) fostering participation among non-environmentally-motivated individuals in sustainable living educational programming; and 2) obtaining behavior change commitments, in the direction of more sustainable lifestyles, from those participants.
As part of the formative process, I conducted four sequential iterations of my chosen intervention. That intervention consisted not only of the presentation of an existing curriculum designed to promote sustainable living, but also of the process of organization selection, key informant involvement, participant recruitment, and program evaluation. In order to evaluate and improve levels of goal achievement within the study, I used multiple data sources, including: key informant interviews, survey questionnaires, and qualitative observations. Those data sources contained measures of numerous constructs, which were used to: provide a deep understanding of the context of the study; evaluate the outcomes of the project's four iterations; identify and overcome enhancing and inhibiting factors that may have affected goal achievement; and define the scope of the findings.
Across four iterations of the intervention, levels of goal achievement improved as adaptations were made to various aspects of the intervention (i.e., the processes of organization selection, key informant involvement, participant recruitment, and program evaluation). The outcomes obtained suggested the value, within the study context, of targeting and collaborating with faith-based and faith-affiliated organizations in the effort to promote sustainable behavior at the individual level. Recommendations for effectively working with such groups, as informed by my findings, include: acknowledging and overcoming existing perceptions of terminology such as sustainability and sustainable living; recognizing and appealing to existing values, priorities, and motivations among target audiences and participants; and utilizing personal influence, leadership involvement, and word of mouth promotion to secure participation at all stages of a given intervention.

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