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Essay: Pro-environmental behaviour

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
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  • Pro-environmental behaviour
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Pro-environmental behaviour has become a crucial part of today’s society, it is defined as “behaviour that harms the environment as little as possible, or even benefits the environment” (Steg & Vlek, 2009, p. 1). Due to climate change and ongoing exploitation of natural resources, the importance of humans acting environmentally reasonable has become increasingly vital. Pro-environmental behaviour aims at changing the human behaviour towards a more conscious handling of nature. Thereby multiple aspects of daily life such as energy consumption, commuting, garbage disposal and water consumption should be targeted (Sern et al., 2018). Especially waste has become one of the most significant problems today as the volume of waste has tremendously increased over the last decades as the ongoing process of industrialization continues. The waste problem cannot only be solved at government level but needs to be addressed at the individual level, especially private households that currently produce a significant amount of waste (Ayu et al., 2018). Therefore, the importance of individuals management of waste is a contemporary topic that is relevant to be studied.

Prior findings

Many papers have analysed determinants of household impact on waste. Especially Ayu et al. (2018) have shown in their quantitative analysis of Bekasi City (Indonesia) that the households are of vital importance in the process of achieving a low carbon society and that the level of knowledge and consciousness about environmental actions is directly linked to household waste behaviour. Within their study, the researchers have focused on women as they represent the main factor in private households in Bekasi City (Indonesia). The study has found empirical evidence that the level of pro-environmental education is positively correlated with more conscious behaviour towards nature and waste management.

However, while recent studies primarily focused on countries with fast growing populations such as Bekasi City (Indonesia) (Ayu et al., 2018), the pro-environmental behaviour in countries that encourage commitment to environmental sustainability for a long period of time such as the Netherlands (Goorhuis et al., 2012) is still relatively unexplored. It is of high interest if a population of a “green” country acts more conscious regarding their management of waste compared to a population where the engagement to pro-environmentally behaviour is not as permeated.

Therefore, this study will focus on the waste management behaviour of households in case of the Netherlands. As a theoretical framework, the paper will use the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) which is commonly used in environmental behavioural research. The TPB is an expectancy-value model claiming that the intention of individuals to perform a certain behaviour can be predicted from their attitude, subjective norms and the perceived behavioural control towards a certain subject (Ajzen, 1991).

The contribution of this paper will add knowledge about the impact of societal commitment on the individual motivation to act in a pro-environmental way and ultimately on the knowledge, attitude and behaviour of individuals. The study thereby aims at deepening our understanding of the roles of private households and their impact on in the transition towards a more sustainable society (Grønhøj & Thøgersen,2017).

Following this short introduction and theoretical framework, a definition of the independent and dependent variable as well as of the theory will be given in the next section. The third section of the paper will provide the methodological approach including an explanation of the questionnaire content. The last section will provide strengths and limitations of the study as well as ethical aspects.

Independent Variable (The Netherlands)

The Netherlands puts an admirable amount of effort and resources into environmental preservation. “With a current recycling rate of 51% the Netherlands has one of the leading positions in the recycling of household waste in Europe” (Goorhuis et al., 2012, p. 1). Through combined efforts in transportation, energy and industry, the Netherlands’ sustainable infrastructure serves to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. The country already has a sustainable culture of transportation, as people most of the time travel fuel-free, either by bike or by public transportation. In addition, “the country has committed to providing 100% emissions-free busses by 2025 and removing all gas and diesel vehicles from the road by 2030, positioning the country as a leader in sustainable regional and urban ground transport.” (Goorhuis et al., 2012, p. 1).

Dependent Variable (Waste Management)

Waste is defined as the residue of a human daily activity, containing hazardous or toxic substances due to its nature, concentration or quantity that can either directly or indirectly harm the environment and/or human health (Ayu et al., 2018). It can be of all types including industrial, biological or household waste. Waste management is the process between the creation and the disposal of waste. More precisely, it includes the collection, disposal or recycling and monitoring of waste. It aims at reducing the negative effects and impacts on human health and the environment. Waste reduction activities through reduce, reuse and recycle already start at the individual housing levels (Ayu et al., 2018). However, there is no uniform policy how to properly manage waste which implies that there are still diverging levels of waste management worldwide.

Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB)

The impact of the attitude and awareness of the environment on the behaviour of individuals has been shown in the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991), one of the most influential theoretical frameworks that can also be applied to the field of ecological psychology. This theory is designed to predict and explain human behaviour in specific contexts (Ajzen, 1991). A main determinant within this theory is the individual’s intention to perform a certain behaviour. Intentions are influenced by attitude, subjective norms and the perceived behavioural control. This study aims at gathering knowledge about pro-environmental behaviour within these three sections (see Appendix 1.1-1.3). The TPB suggests that the person’s behavioural intention is the most relevant predictor of an action (Ajzen, 1991). In Figure 1, the model of the TPB is presented.

Figure 1 – Theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991)

The theory of planned behaviour would predict that people living in a sustainable country have a stronger environmental consciousness.


The focus of this study with reference to previous research will be on the general behaviour regarding waste management in the Netherlands. Hence, we hypothesize that:

H1. There is a relationship between living in the Netherlands and the citizen’s motivation to act in a pro-environmental way regarding their attitude, knowledge and behaviour towards waste management.

H2. There is a positive relationship between living in the Netherlands and the citizen’s motivation to act in a pro-environmental way regarding their attitude, knowledge and behaviour towards waste management.

2. Research Approach

This study will use quantitative research approach in order to explain the waste management behaviour of households in the Netherlands. Quantitative methods related to the Theory of Planned Behaviour will be used to collect data on attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control in the effort to manage waste. The study aims at collecting quantitative data that can be generalized in the field of waste management behaviour. It will use existing theories about the environmental management at households in Besaki City (Indonesia) (Ayu et al., 2018) and about TPB (Ajzen, 1991) and test these theories with a different demographic variable (Netherlands). The study will be conducted for three months, from October 2019 to December 2019 in four Dutch cities (Ayu et al., 2018).

Quantitative research will be conducted with online surveys. The choice of answers will be given by using the Likert scale method with an interval scale with “strongly disagree, do not agree, agree and strongly agree” for all questions (Ayu et al., 2018).

Research Design

The research will be conducted as a cross-sectional study which analyses the behaviour of the of Dutch households regarding waste management during a period of three months. The research will be conducted with an online survey in the Netherlands by a professional Dutch market research company among a random selection of households in four Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Enschede, Eindhoven, Rotterdam). The Netherlands represents a cultural context where sustainability has been a societal priority for years, where sustainable development and pro-environmental behaviour are integrated in school curricula, and where buying environment-friendly products is comparatively common (Grønhøj & Thøgersen, 2017) (Goorhuis et al., 2012).

The population criteria in this research will be:

Households in Amsterdam (North Holland), Enschede (East Holland), Eindhoven (South Holland) and Rotterdam (West Holland).

The study will apply probability sampling (random sampling) to ensure that every household of the population from the Dutch cities get an equal chance to be part of the selected sample. Random sampling method will be used because it is considered homogeneous so that it meets a minimum of 200 respondents (Ayu et al., 2018).

In order to have a result that is representative for the Dutch households, 100 households from each city will be randomly selected. Each participant will complete a questionnaire related to waste management significant issues: attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control (Ajzen, 1991). The final sample will consist of 400 answered questionnaires that are each split in 3 parts (Ayu et al., 2018).

An online survey will be conducted to collect data. The survey will be separated in 3 sections regarding “Household Attitude in Waste Management”, “Household Subjective Norms in Waste Management” and “Household Perceived Behavioural Control in Waste Management” where the participants will be asked to respond to the questions on a 5-point rating scale (Ayu et al., 2018) (Ajzen, 1991).

The first section of the questionnaire consists of 20 questions regarding the attitude of the participants regarding waste management using interval scales with “Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, “Neither”, “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” as answer possibilities. This section aims to assess data on the attitude and mindset towards waste management. There will be 20 questions asked in this section (see Appendix 1.1) (Ayu et al., 2018).

The second section of the questionnaire consists of 20 questions regarding the subjective norms of the participants regarding waste management using interval scales with “Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, “Neither”, “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” as answer possibilities. This section aims to assess data on the perceived social pressure to engage in waste management. There will be 20 questions asked in this section (see Appendix 1.2) (Ayu et al., 2018).

The third and final section of the questionnaire consists of 20 questions regarding the perceived behavioural control of the participants regarding waste management also using intervals scales with “Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, “Neither”, “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” as answer possibilities. This section aims to assess data on the perceived ability to engage in waste management. There will be 20 questions asked in this section (see Appendix 1.3) (Ayu et al., 2018).

In order to analyse the relationship between the independent variable (the Netherlands) and the dependent variable (waste management), methods of Person’s correlation will be used. The collected data from the surveys will be captured and arranged on 5-point rating scale spreadsheets to enable further data and statistical analysis by grouping similar answers. The data will provide quantifiable results that will be visualized in form of a table. There will be a table given for each section (Table 1.1-1.3, see Appendix), split into a column for the questions and for each answer possibility. The percentage of participants who will respond a particular answer will be given in each column.

Strengths and Limitations

The findings of the study will be generalized for the population of the Netherlands. The data will be collected from randomly selected households living in four different regions of the country, it can therefore be replicated to other countries, subject areas or time periods. As it will be a quantitative research, the data conducted can easily be analysed, evaluated and presented in form of a table and provides clear information about the topic required.

However, as the survey will be conducted online and without any surveillance, there is no security that the answers given by the participants will be reliable. The answers might be either flawed or incomplete which would imply that during data cleaning there might be empty answer fields. Furthermore, it is not possible to obtain in-depth information through the survey as the questions and answers will be designed in a precise and compact way.

Research Ethics

Research ethics provide guidelines for the responsible conduct of a research. It aims at achieving a high ethical standard during the conduct of research. As the research about the waste management behaviour in the Netherlands will be conducted by an online survey, the anonymity of the participants will be guaranteed. Although it is possible to track the IP-address of each participant’s computer used to answer the questions, there will be no obvious retracement of the answers. The participants do not provide any further information than the city they live in, no names or contact details will be provided or published. In the beginning of the online survey, the participants will be informed that their data will be collected anonymously and will also be treated confidential which means that it will not be used for any further study than for the current one.

Furthermore, correct referencing is of vital importance for the research to stay ethically. Proper referencing means that all sources and information that will be included in the study will be cited and listed correctly. If correct citing of used sources is missing, the study will be blamed of plagiarism which means that sources are either quoted incorrect or not at all. Therefore, all sources that will be used or included in the study of waste management behaviour in the Netherlands will be properly cited and listed in the list of references in the end of the document.

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