Date of Award

5-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Jessica E. Leahy

Second Committee Member

Laura Wilson

Third Committee Member

Mario Teisl

Abstract

Pro-environmental behaviors are becoming increasingly important as the harmful effects of human behavior on the natural environment become more evident. Each year, numerous studies report increasing damage that human behavior is having on the natural environment. However, why adults act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro- environmental behavior are extremely complex theoretical questions. Although numerous theoretical frameworks have been developed to understand the determinants of pro-environmental behaviors, researchers have long struggled with explaining and predicting human behavior. Understanding why people act in an environmentally responsible manner is of great value to many individuals such as policymakers, scientists, educators, health professionals, and Cooperative Extension researchers. Private well water quality is a major health issue because numerous contaminants cannot be identified by taste, color, or odor, which makes it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed. Contamination may occur naturally or as a result of human activity, and many individuals do not realize the risk. There is a growing concern due to the combined force of potential contaminants, an unknowing public, and lack of government regulations. The current study researched pro- environmental behavior change throughout New England by investigating three novel approaches to behavior change. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to investigate environmental communication, health risk perceptions, and environmental education and outreach. Results indicate the following: children are not effective forms of environmental communication to their parents and do not influence parent environmental behaviors, factors of health risk perception significantly influence private well water testing behavior, and 4-H learning environments contribute to increased perceptions of environmental knowledge and behavior and future well water testing behavior.

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