The purpose of this paper was to document the food-related environmental beliefs and behaviours of undergraduate university students. More specifically, this research was focussed on determining if environmental sustainability is a consideration in students’ food choices, identifying the specific choices and behaviours adopted to reduce their food-related environmental footprint, and documenting the role of gender and pro-environmental values in these food-related environmental beliefs and behaviours.
This research employed a mixed methods approach, i.e. focus group discussions and a survey, to document the food-related environmental beliefs and behaviours of undergraduate university students. The survey was informed by the results of the focus group discussions, and included standard measures of pro-environmental values and worldview.
Results from focus group discussions revealed a broad array of beliefs and behaviours related to the connection between food, food production and the environment. The survey confirmed these results, but indicated a preference for such actions as recycling and reducing food waste in contrast to such alternatives as reducing meat consumption or avoiding processed foods. These results suggest that educational campaigns could focus on strengthening beliefs about the food-environment connection, as well as help to empower students to take a greater variety of actions to reduce their food-related environmental footprint.
Relatively little attention has been focussed on individual beliefs and practices with respect to achieving more sustainable food consumption, particularly on university and college campuses. The research also represents a departure from previous work in that it utilizes both qualitative and quantitative methods, and takes a broad approach to the food-environment connection.
The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their help with this research: Diane Barker, Jeremy Bruskotter, Vennie Gore, Bruce Haskell, Linda Kalof, Guy Procopio, Laurie Thorp, Caroline Keson, Emily Snoek, Robyn Wilson and Katherine Wright. This research was supported by Michigan State University’s Office of the Vice President for Finance and Operations. The author also thanks the two anonymous reviewers who provided input in the preparation of this manuscript.
Campbell-Arvai, V. (2015), "Food-related environmental beliefs and behaviours among university undergraduates: A mixed-methods study", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 279-295. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-06-2013-0071Download as .RIS
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