M. Ryan Nugent, Megan Kemp, & Heather Barnes Truelove, PhD.
Dr. Heather Barnes Truelove | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology
In response to multiple vivid images about plastic straw pollution, multiple major corporations have started to reduce their straw waste or completely ban straw use. These images are assumed to lead to increased guilt, environmental identity, and environmental concern that is thought to then motivate additional pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs). In the first part of the study (Time 1), participants were randomly assigned to either watch a saddening video of a turtle struggling with a plastic straw stuck in its nose (the environmental appeal), or to not watch the video (controls). They were then surveyed on their levels of guilt, pro-environmental identity, and concern for the environment. The participants who watched the video were then asked to reduce their use of single-use plastic straws and to track their use for one week, while control participants were only asked to track their straw use for one week. After a week (Time 2), the participants were surveyed on their straw use, environmental policy support, levels of guilt, pro-environmental identity, and concern. This study supports the idea of guilt being a powerful motivator, but that eco-guilt can be reduced over time. On the other hand, other motivators, such as pro-environmental identity and concern, may not be affected by this particular environmental appeal. Overall, an individual’s straw use seems to be unaffected by the chosen environmental appeal, as well as an individual’s support for policies against single-use plastics.