UBC Theses and Dissertations
The roles of affect and sustainability education in increasing pro-environmental behaviour in a botanical garden Byfuglien, Andrea
Generating behaviour change for transformation toward sustainability is a significant challenge of our time. In order to reach local and global sustainability goals, behaviour change at a large scale is not only necessary but crucial. A key question is how to promote pro-environmental behaviour. Multiple factors have been found to influence pro-environmental behaviour, including affect, environmental concerns, and environmental education. To date, the relationship between these factors is still unclear. In this thesis, I conducted a field experiment at University of British Columbia Botanical Garden to determine how a sustainability education program and affect influence pro-environmental behaviour. Of particular interest is the arousal dimension of affect, the state of being physiologically alert and attentive. In the experiment, participants were randomly assigned to spend time in the garden (ground walk condition), spend time in the garden and receive sustainability education (ground walk + education condition), go on a tree-top canopy walk (arousal condition), go on a tree-top canopy walk and receive sustainability education (arousal + education condition), or a control condition where they did not go on any walk or receive education. In the education condition, participants received verbal and interactive education from instructors on the Sustainable Development Goals. I measured participants’ arousal level as well as positive and negative affect at the end of the experiment. In addition, I also measured pro-environmental behaviour, which included donations, signing up to receive newsletters from UBC Botanical Garden, signing up to receive volunteering opportunities from the Garden, and signing four petitions. I found that participants in the canopy walk conditions reported higher levels of arousal than the ground walk conditions, but they did not perform more pro-environmental behaviours. The results indicated no significant effect of either arousal or education on pro-environmental behaviour. The study contributes to the currently limited experimental evidence to understand affect, education, and pro-environmental behaviours, and highlights the complicated relationship between these factors. It calls for further research to better understand how we can leverage affective experiences and design education programs to foster pro-environmental behaviour.
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