Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Fall 2015


Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2015


Copyright @ 2015 Rebecca Grosskurth


The goal of this research is to examine the connection between childhood time spent in the outdoors and adult sustainability behaviors through investigating college student involvement in resource conservation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There is a growing library of research on how to successfully promote eco-friendly behaviors with little evidence of its successful application on a wide scale. The research questions are as follows: What is the connection between childhood time spent in nature and adult sustainability behaviors? To what extent do students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln practice sustainability behaviors? Researchers focused on environmental sustainability and defined the behaviors as actively recycling or conserving water or energy. Fifty interviews were conducted during the Spring 2015 semester lasting 15-30 minutes each. Triangulated qualitative analysis revealed 8 themes: childhood experiences, inconsistent conservation mindsets, low effort, general awareness, efficacy, skepticism, responsibility and education/major. Most students spent significant time outdoors in childhood and agreed that resources were in decline but had low awareness of specific issues and inconsistent sustainability behaviors. Additionally, there was a strong correlation between feelings of efficacy and sustainability behaviors. While research points to childhood experiences in nature as a source of sustainability behaviors, this study was inconclusive. This study reiterated that human behavior is complex and, to an extent, unpredictable. Future environmental programming should address efficacy in target audiences.