From Eating Plants to Smaller Families, Strong Reactions to Low-Carbon Behaviors

Background: Perceptions of potentially difficult yet impactful individual actions to reduce carbon emissions are understudied. These impactful actions include having one fewer child, living car-free, and eating a plant-based diet. A mixed-methods approach prompted conversation about these topics by soliciting direct input and measuring emotions and planned behaviors people have in reaction to information about the carbon savings of these individual actions. Method: 382 Americans from SurveyMonkey Audience took an online survey. Respondents read a summary of a peer-reviewed article outlining the carbon savings from the above actions. All respondents considered the action of having one fewer child and were invited to leave a comment on the topic, followed by self-rated emotional responses and likelihood/desire to do the action. Following this, subsets of respondents provided comments and responses to the actions of living car-free or eating a plant-based diet. All respondents provided demographics and climate change concern. Results: Comments on each action were categorized by engagement, supportiveness, and content. Concern for the climate is a strong predictor of willingness to engage in and support for difficult carbon-saving actions. Emotional reactions were compared across actions and by comment segmentation to classify respondents as receptive, unreceptive, or in-between. Conclusions: Successful messaging around individual actions must differentiate between audiences that are receptive, those that are unreceptive, and the movable middle. Respondents reacted most negatively to the suggestion of having one fewer child compared to other actions, which suggests that environmentalists looking to broach this topic should frame their messaging to reduce negative reactivity.

Tuesday Poster Session
Katilyn Mascatelli
Sarah States
Related Conference Themes
Women & Girls