Facts and Figures
An interdivisional Task Force for "greening" APA has emerged from Div. 48 (Peace, Conflict and Violence) and Div. 34 (Population and Environment). In 1998, APA's Council of Representatives gave its support to the effort by passing two related motions:
The first promised that APA will "encourage convention and APA meeting hotels to facilitate environmentally responsible practices."
The second resolved that APA will "report annually on progress toward responsible practices, including resource reduction, reuse and recycling at meeting hotels and APA Head Office."
Because APA is committed to improving human welfare, it has promised to model and facilitate responsible environmental practices.
The task force has been busy. In 1999, it surveyed Central Office personnel to identify APA's in-house efforts toward environmental responsibility as well as division presidents about environmentally responsible practices. It also examined APA's journals for paper and ink use. Last year the task force placed a survey in the December Monitor to query readership. The survey was also posted online as part of the electronic version of the Monitor, and at two additional APA-related Web sites.
The task force received 353 surveys by mail and another 82 recorded online. Most respondents were either APA Members (69 percent), Fellows (6 percent) or Associates/Affiliates (15 percent). The remainder were not members of APA, but were included as readers of the Monitor or visitors/respondents to the Web sites. Active members in all but one of APA's divisions responded to the survey, with mailed responses from the majority of U.S. states, as well as from countries outside of the United States. Although respondents came from a wide geographic area and interests within APA, they were probably not randomly distributed across the membership. Nevertheless, responses offer a glimpse into the views of the readers of the Monitor and visitors to the two Web sites who chose to respond.
Did respondents believe they had a personal and professional responsibility to behave in ways not harmful to the natural environment?
An overwhelming majority of respondents (96 percent) agreed that they had a personal responsibility as an individual to behave in ways not harmful to the natural environment. Very few disagreed with this statement (3 percent). While still a majority, fewer agreed that they had a professional responsibility to behave in ways not harmful to the natural environment (76 percent). Perceived individual and professional responsibility were significantly related.
What environmentally responsible behaviors did respondents engage in?
Respondents reported a variety of environmentally responsible behaviors. The vast majority (91 percent) said they avoid the purchase of certain products that are harmful to the environment. Most reported recycling (including aluminum, glass, plastics, paper, etc.) on a daily or almost daily basis (83 percent), or a few times per week (8 percent). Almost half (45 percent) reported active membership in an organization primarily focused on environmental conservation or preservation. Carpooling or vanpooling was less common, with most (63 percent) carpooling only a few times a year or not at all.
Far fewer of the respondents work on environmental problems:
Over half of the respondents (53 percent) said they do not address environmental issues in their work as psychologists, though 9 percent worked in settings where environmental problems are addressed through psychology.
8 percent said they consulted with an organization or business to address environmental concerns.
6 percent conducted research on environmental attitudes, values or behaviors, or taught a course with a specific focus on psychological approaches to environmental problems (5 percent).
Others mentioned various ways they address environmental issues, such as including sections on environmental issues in their courses, or discussing the natural environment's role in mental and physical health with their clients.
Since a focus of the task force is to encourage and support APA's efforts towards environmental responsibility, it included a question regarding the perceived corporate responsibility of APA. A majority agreed (almost 92 percent) that as a member organization, APA has a responsibility to conduct business in ways that are not harmful to the natural environment. Only a few disagreed (2 percent), or completely disagreed (3 percent) with this statement.
The Greening APA Task Force sees many ways for APA to improve its environmental responsibility. The Monitor survey asked about three in particular because these changes depend on membership support and participation. For example, the task force asked about registration for convention hotels. Last year, for the first time, APA printed the names of hotels with adopted "green policies" as part of the registration information for the convention. Informing registrants of hotel green policies could significantly increase the pressure APA can put on its convention hotels to employ environmentally responsible practices. Most respondents agreed with the item "As a convention attendee, my hotel choice would be influenced by information about the hotel's level of environmental responsibility."
Secondly, because other professional organizations provide members with electronic, rather than mailed correspondence and newsletters, the task force asked if people would prefer electronic mailings to reduce the use of paper and envelopes. Respondents indicated somewhat less support for online newsletters and correspondence, though a slight majority did say they would prefer it.
Finally, because other member organizations have transitioned to electronic submission of program proposals, the task force asked about that. Most said they would prefer to be able to submit online. Some respondents said they did not want to go over to electronic correspondence and online submission of programs because of lack of access to e-mail, extensive amounts of e-mail already, the need to print out materials to be able to read and store them, and the difficulties with electronic forums because of disabilities.
Most respondents said they wanted more information regarding environmental issues, including information about how psychology has been applied to environmental problems (69 percent), information about the psychological relevance of environmental issues (63 percent), and information about APA's policies to reduce harm to the environment (62 percent). Other articles appearing in this issue of the Monitor address some of these concerns.
If you would like to join the Greening APA Task Force in its continuing efforts to increase APA's environmental responsibility, please write to Deborah DuNann Winter (firstname.lastname@example.org; or Department of Psychology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362).
This piece was contributed by Patricia L. Winter of the Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Deborah D. Winter of Whitman College, Jill Robbins of Salem Associates and Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster.