Attitudes and Behaviors towards Human Waste Impacts: A Study

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Kristine Route

May 24, 2016, 6:37:18 PM5/24/16
to Managing Human Waste in the Wild

Greetings All!

After traveling to the 2014 Sustainable Summits in Golden Colorado, I was encouraged and inspired to take my AmeriCorps human waste education efforts to the next level and obtain a Master’s Degree at Alaska Pacific University. So I thought I would share my results with you! In the preamble to pursuing my degree Kathleen Meyer and I created a point-of-entry tool, the Pooster, and with the help of Doug Whittaker, I recently completed a study utilizing it. The study examined peoples' attitudes and behaviors related to human waste impacts in outdoor recreation settings in Cooper Landing, Alaska. I have posted the abstract below and the completed document is attached. Ultimately, we discovered that a norm is still developing as people begin to see human waste as an issue.  The Pooster helped users realize the consequences of improperly disposed waste, but being that education is not a stand-alone solution, and without outside pressures (park regulation, peer pressure, etc.) they did not feel obligated to do something about it.  We also discovered that user groups want to do the right thing, but often are unsure about what that is. Plans are to continue producing and distributing the Pooster upon the merits of increasing awareness.

If you are interested in more information or using the Pooster please visit

Thank you,

Kristine Route




The purpose of this study is to examine how the public perceives human waste impacts in natural areas and the effects it has on recreation experiences. The study will utilize Shalom Schwartz’s Norm Activation Theory (1968) to assess relationships between peoples’ values, attitudes, norms, intentions, and behaviors related to human waste disposal in wildland settings. Understanding these cognitive processes will help determine the likely success of persuasion methods to reduce the impacts of human waste in wildland settings.  

The research for this study included a few key components to assess human waste impacts.   First was the administration of surveys to user groups camping and recreating along a popular beach site on Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing, Alaska. Piles of excrement were counted and recorded bi-weekly in the woods surrounding the research area.   Posters were put in place midway through the study to determine if indirect education influenced users’ awareness of consequences of the behavior or condition (AC) and the extent that they ascribe responsibility for the behavior or conditions (AR). Initial results have shown that the poster had a small effect on user’s behavior and awareness of waste management issues, and that the distribution of human waste followed a pattern of accumulation.  The significance is that a norm for human waste disposal in front country settings has not been fully developed and has room for improvement.


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