Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Roger A. Hart

Committee Members

Melissa Checker

Cindi Katz

Susan Saegert

Gary Winkel

Subject Categories



While recycling remains a common research topic within environmentally responsible behavior studies, it is little known how contextual factors such as physical environments, social interactions, and cultural backgrounds influence people's attitudes and behavior. This research adopts an ecological framework and conducts a mixed-method qualitative inquiry of whether and how relocation has impacts on people's ecological thinking and behavior in their everyday life. Semi-structured interviews were conducted within two groups of people: Americans who moved to Munich and Germans who moved to New York City. Interviews were conducted in participants' homes or workplaces. Pictures were taken inside the apartments, in common areas in the buildings, and recycling areas in public spaces to record recycling accessibility.

This dissertation describes and analyzes people's recycling behavior in three interrelated aspects. First, it challenges the traditional dichotomous categorization of recyclers versus non-recyclers by presenting a model of recycling orientations in multiple dimensions: material, spatial, and temporal. Second, it investigates various contextual factors including physical, political, and social environments that influence pro-environmental attitudes and recycling behavior. The findings show that different contextual factors are connected to each other and collaboratively influence how people perceive and perform recycling as well as other pro-environmental behavior. Finally, this research examines the effects of relocation and how people change their pro-environmental attitudes and behavior over time. The results demonstrated how changes in physical, social, political, and cultural contexts altered the way people think and act towards the environment. This study explores and confirms the importance of contextual factors in people's recycling attitudinal and behavioral changes and suggests that a consistent and comprehensive environmentally friendly environment is essential to help people build and maintain a greener lifestyle.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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