A doctoral dissertation written by Christina Erickson, Ph.D. Class of 2010.
The current climate change crisis demands immediate and creative approaches for systemic shifts in our culture and actions. In the past several decades, education has played a role in bringing awareness regarding environmental issues, but has not necessarily resulted in all the needed behavior changes. A newer approach combines psychological theories with outreach and marketing techniques. This is the rationale behind a new kind of campus activism, peer to peer sustainability outreach programs – the subject of this research.
This dissertation research aims to identify current peer to peer sustainability outreach programs and their operations; develop process and outcome evaluation protocols for the programs; clarify administrative procedures and their relationship to a program’s success; and gain an understanding of how these programs contribute to the growing field of sustainability education and related human behavior change. Methods used include: case studies, peer surveys, interviews and focus groups, and program record analysis.
These studies found that programs across the U.S. employ a variety of organizational models and delivery methods that are best suited to individual campuses’ needs and resources with common motivations and desires for assessment techniques. An in-depth evaluation of one program found strong educational and cultural impacts, positive ecological and financial impacts, with a need for broadened outreach approaches and feedback loops. Combining findings and literature from social psychology, peer education, and program evaluation, this research concludes by identifying elements of successful and effective programs.