Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Artemio Ramirez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janelle Applequist, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deborah Bowen, Ph.D.


ecology, greenwashing, recycling, thematic analysis


Recycling of common plastics is a practical way to limit the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and eventually contributes to various forms of pollution. However, statistics indicate that it is not currently a normalized, prioritized behavior. A pilot study indicated that relying only on preexisting frameworks such as the Elaboration Likelihood Model to understand consumer perceptions simply does not encompass the scope of the topic. Consumer experiences with green messages, especially in the current climate of a saturated advertising market are incredibly complex. Understanding these experiences is also currently being impeded by inconsistencies in how researchers in this field operationalize (or fail to operationalize) terms that are essential to applying results. This study takes an important step in bridging the gap between these terminological inconsistencies, as well as contextualizing results for modern consumers.

This study also posits that research needs to examine the foundation of these perceptions: language and meaning. A mixed-method survey was ergo used to garner information concerning how consumers define recycling, what personal and social factors influence decisions to recycle, and what design factors make a message encouraging recycling effective. Results indicate that conceptions of recycling and convenience are underdeveloped, and message design should focus on trustworthy statistics. Future researchers in this field can then apply these initial conclusions of how language is being used to future, discourse focused studies. Future advertisers and marketers can also more effectively position their products, then connect their intended audiences to that product.