Author(s): Linda Derksen, John Gartrell
Over the last several decades, sociologists have investigated the public's increasing concern about the environment, but they have had little success explaining attitudes toward the environment or the adoption of pro-environment behaviors like recycling. We examine the role of social context in the link between individual attitudes about the environment and recycling behavior by comparing communities that vary in their access to recycling programs. Results show that people with access to a structured recycling program have much higher levels of recycling than do people lacking such access. Furthermore, individual attitudes toward the environment affect recycling behavior only in the community with easy access to a structured recycling program. Individual concern about the environment enhances the effect of the recycling program, but does not overcome the barriers presented by lack of access.