Heterogeneity in the Preferences and Pro-Environmental Behavior of College Students: the Effects of Years on Campus, Demographics, and External Factors

Document Type




Format of Original

13 p.

Publication Date




Source Publication

Journal of Cleaner Production

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.10.133


Models from several social science fields have identified factors that lead to pro-environmental behavior. This research builds on those models by analyzing a survey completed by over 500 undergraduates at a US liberal arts university to examine the characteristics of students that are associated with more environmentally friendly behavior and quantify the desirability of different environmental initiatives. There is evidence that the probability of pro-environmental behavior substantially increases with each additional year that a student spends on campus. The magnitude of the effect is between 4 and 10 percentage points per year, depending on the specific behavior and empirical model. This contribution suggests that higher education impacts pro-environmental behavior and supports the notion that higher education institutions can play an important role in making societies more sustainable. Further, evidence is presented to suggest that this increase in pro-environmental behavior over one's college career is due to factors outside of the formal curriculum. This study also finds that females and ethnic/racial minorities engage in significantly higher levels of green behavior including recycling and double-sided printing. On average, students prefer sustainability initiatives related to energy conservation and recycling to other environmental programs but there is a great deal of heterogeneity in these preferences.


Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 112, No. 4 (January 2016): 3451-3463. DOI.