Date of Award



Environmental Science


John Van Buren


What is the motivation for acting environmentally? Why do people care? What is the reason for buying fluorescent bulbs and hybrid cars, energy efficient appliances and reusable water bottles? Why is it that people turn off the lights when they leave a room, turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth, and go through the inconvenience of recycling?

Humans are known to act out of self-interest. Regardless of what people do or why they do it, their motivation can always be traced back to personal gain.

So why go green? Nothing about reducing, reusing, or recycling has any direct impact on one‘s quality of life. Throwing an empty wrapper into a garbage can as opposed to tossing it on the street doesn‘t have any direct impact on the person doing the throwing.

Perhaps it is a consumer trend then? Maybe it is a moral standard we hold ourselves to? Do people act environmentally purely out of habit? Does big business influence environmental consciousness; does the media?

How can it be that people are attempting to do so much good to solve a problem that likely won‘t turn up in their lifetimes, or their children‘s, or even their children‘s children? Where does the need to do the right thing intersect with the need to improve our lives? There seem to be more questions than answers when it comes to 3 environmental consciousness and motivation. The explanation lies in a combination of philosophical, economical, and environmental theories.