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Amy Dyer Cabaniss is a 2014 graduate of the PhD Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England.

Amy Dyer Cabaniss, Ph.D.

Committee : Committee Chair: Thomas Webler, Ph.D.; Committee Members : George Trembley, Ph.D. and P. Wesley Schultz, Ph.D.

Amy Cabaniss, PhD, is an environmental educator, specializing in conservation psychology. She serves as the Youth STEM Coordinator for the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, and part-time faculty in environmental studies at Mitchell College, New London, CT.

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

Removing household hazardous waste (HHW) from the municipal solid waste stream is important to protect health, safety and the environment. Communities across the U.S. separate HHW from regular trash for disposal with hazardous waste, however nationally, participation rates are low with only five to ten percent of households estimated to participate in any given collection. This two-part study used the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to understand individuals’ beliefs and attitudes toward HHW collections, and to develop a print message intervention to increase participation. In Study 1, respondents (N = 983) completed a survey administered to homeowners in the Connecticut River Estuary region. Correlational and regression mediation analyses showed that the TPB significantly predicted self-reported attendance at an HHW collection. Despite wide use of the TPB in studies designed to predict intention and behavior, application in behavior change interventions is not common. Thus in Study 2, an experiment was conducted in which the sample comprised of survey respondents and non-respondents (N = 2,409) was randomly assigned to receive one of the following intervention print message treatments: (1) only factual information about the HHW collections; (2) factual information plus positive attitudes toward HHW collection participation; (3) factual and normative messages about HHW participation; and (4) factual, attitudinal and normative messages. The control condition was single-family households in the region that received neither the survey nor treatment. Results of the experiment were mixed. The information-only card showed a 15% participation rate while the card that provided information and appealed to both attitudes and norms, showed a 22.5% participation rate, compared to the control group with 8.7% participation. Two conditions hypothesized to show significant increases in participation, an information and attitude message card and an information and normative message card did not significantly differ from the control. The results of this research imply that direct-mailed print messages with program information and appeals to both attitudes and norms can be an effective tool for motivating HHW collection participation.