Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Environmental Program

Keywords

environmental ethics, stated beliefs, food choice, ENVS majors, human behavior

Abstract

The act of following a certain diet has enormous implications for the environment, with some diets causing significant harm and others causing considerably less. While this difference in environmental impact between diets may not be well known throughout the public, it can safely be assumed that Environmental Studies (ENVS) majors at the University of Vermont (UVM) are well versed in this topic, or at least have some awareness of it, through their course of study and general environmental interest. The fact that many ENVS students adhere to diets that cause more environmental harm than others represents an intriguing paradox that has yet to be closely studied. A survey investigating the extent to which environmental ethics influences students' food choice, as well as what other factors are present in their choice, was administered to all ENVS majors. The results of the survey indicate that environmental ethics does not influence students' food choice or, at least, it does not seem possible to conclude that a clear relationship exists between the two. An analysis of the open text responses, however, reveals that other values are common across diets, suggesting that, while environmental ethics does not seem to influence food choice, other values might. Another trend that emerged was that there seems to be a disconnect between the respondents' stated beliefs and their actual behavior. This conclusion was based on the fact that respondents ranked environmental degradation as either first or second most important in their choice across all diets, despite the fact that the environmental impact varies considerably between them. Potential explanations for this finding include the influence of situational factors in the respondents' lives, the existence of ambivalence, and a lack of cogent reasoning.

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