Does “Science” Matter to Sustainability in Higher Education? The Role of Millennial College Students’ Attitudes Toward Science in Sustainable Consumption

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For abstract and citation

Higher education has committed to fostering the development of students as educated consumers as well as ethical professionals capable of valuing sustainability in their decision-making. Making decisions based upon the understanding of the complexities of sustainability requires a certain level of scientific knowledge and appreciation that can be introduced and developed by educators. However there has been no empirical study that supports significant relationships between attitudes toward science and sustainable consumption to date. This study developed a model depicting the effects of attitudes toward science on beliefs about sustainability and attitudes and behavioral intentions toward sustainable consumption. The model was tested via structural equation modeling with online survey data collected from 1,480 millennial college students in the Southern US. The results suggest that perceived importance of public understanding of science directly affects beliefs about sustainability including ethical obligation, consumer effectiveness, consumer responsibility, and perceived knowledge, which in turn indirectly affects attitudes and behavioral intentions toward sustainable consumption. An interest in science as a career, however, does not demonstrate such effects. This study is vital to higher education, policy makers, and industry practitioners who are working on turning consumption towards sustainability and expanding their ability to provide the scientific foundation that students can use to make sustainable decisions.

Keywords

Attitudes toward science, Sustainable consumption, Millennial, STEM, Sustainability

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