Publication Date

Spring 5-5-2023

Document Type

Student Project

First Advisor

Kidder, Jeffrey


Over the past few decades, climate change has been a significant area of interest for researchers across various disciplines due to its impacts both ecologically and socially. Sociologists have inquired about the social implications of climate change for years, but many of these studies have focused on the macro scale; this study investigates the way climate change is integrated into daily life. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen college students (aged 18-21) to explore how climate change impacts their day-to-day interactions, paying particular attention to how they conceptualize themselves in relation to the national attitude towards sustainability. Analysis of the interview data suggests that respondents view American lifestyles as decidedly unsustainable, and in order to identify themselves as responsible and environmentally conscious citizens, they strategically separate themselves from the ‘average’ American. Strategies for separation include emphasizing their own sustainable action in comparison to the unsustainable actions of their peers and justifying the unsustainable actions that they continue to take part in. Furthermore, respondents express a desire to shift American behavior to be more sustainable, and they highlight the role of education in this transformation despite evidence that their own education does not prevent them from partaking in some unsustainable behaviors. Further research could explore the generalizability of these observations and examine how different groups of people might internalize sustainability in different ways.