Increasing environmental knowledge and effecting change in lawn maintenance behavior among homeowners

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Increasing environmental knowledge and effecting change in lawn maintenance behavior among homeowners

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The management of private property in urban areas can greatly influence the amount of fertilizer, soil, and water runoff into surrounding watersheds, increasing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and creating eutrophic conditions in water bodies. Lawns are a prominent component of managed landscapes, and as such can play a role in water pollution levels over time. Encouraging beneficial maintenance behaviors has the potential to reduce nutrient runoff from turfgrass areas and increase the ecosystem services they provide. However, there are complex reasons why private property owners make lawn and yard care decisions. In addition, members of the public often do not understand the path water travels when it leaves their property. Therefore, the objectives of this study are to assess whether or not an individual’s possession of inaccurate water pathway knowledge is related to their lawn and yard maintenance behavior, as well as to determine the effectiveness of video and written educational interventions in changing the behavior and intent to behave of individuals. Surveys of Twin Cities Metro Area, MN residents were conducted 2014 and 2015. Based on their answers, respondents were divided into two groups; those who had obvious misconceptions about runoff water pathways and those who did not. Approximately 32% of survey participants had misconceptions about runoff water pathways. In addition, there were significant differences regarding about the effects of maintenance activities, as well as the frequency of lawn watering, mowing, and fertilizer use. A follow-up survey of the June, 2014 respondents did not indicate a change in maintenance behavior after viewing the educational video, but a comparison between two intervention methods on influencing and individual’s intent to behave found that a written intervention was more effective than video. This information will help inform and direct public outreach and education efforts to help improve local water quality in urban areas.


University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. December 2015. Major: Applied Plant Sciences. Advisor: Brian Horgan. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 137 pages.

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Leslie, Madeline. (2015). Increasing environmental knowledge and effecting change in lawn maintenance behavior among homeowners. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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