Date of Thesis

Spring 2022


According to the Yale Program on Climate Communication, a majority of Americans report worrying about climate change, yet the proportion of Americans who discuss climate change often with friends and family is around half of the worried percentage. This discrepancy illustrates a habit of climate avoidance and climate inaction. Drawing upon psychology and human-centered design, I assisted Dr. Michael A. Smyer in developing Graduating Greener, a workshop aimed at disrupting climate avoidance and promoting pro-environmental behavior through a sequence of social, environmentally-based activities. In this thesis, I investigate concepts from the field of behavioral economics which inform and align with the approach of the workshop as a non-price behavioral intervention. I also discuss the shortcomings of mainstream economic theory in solving the climate crisis and the ways in which this workshop appeals to aspects of human behavior which neoclassical theory fails to address. In the Spring of 2022, I conducted a pilot study to evaluate the impacts of the workshop on small groups of two to five students. Data from the pilot study did not indicate notable treatment effects for aggregate levels of pro-environmental behavior and hope. Although a significant treatment effect was not detected, likely due to small sample size, the results from the pilot study show that the greatest increase observed between pre- and post-treatment data is in aggregate concern. Furthermore, qualitative observations based on open-ended responses in the post-treatment questionnaire suggest that the Graduating Greener workshop impacted levels of efficacy and retention of climate action strategies for participants in the experimental treatment group. My findings suggest that Graduating Greener and other behavioral interventions which engage similar behavioral and psychological phenomena are particularly promising for increasing concern. I recommend that this study be expanded and replicated for a larger subject pool. Additionally, this workshop is a low-cost intervention which institutions of higher education could offer as programming through student organizations or first-year Orientation. The Graduating Greener workshop, intended to be facilitated by a member of the community to which they are presenting (e.g. a college student leading a workshop for other college students) promotes peer-to-peer connection pertaining to climate change as well as a social norm of climate communication among college students.


college students, climate change, behavioral economics

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Second Major

Theatre & Dance

Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration

Public Policy

First Advisor

Rachel Landsman

Second Advisor

Mick Smyer

Third Advisor

Rob Jacob