New York City Residents’ Beliefs About Sustainability, Their Relationship to Housing, Greenspace, and Pro-Environmental Behaviors: An Exploratory Study

Collaboration with Alyx Cullen

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Overall, the relationship between accessibility to urban greenspace, connection to nature, and pro-environmental behaviors is complicated. In general, the literature seems to be missing more in-depth case studies of this relationship in higher density urban areas such as New York City, and the following study attempts to address some of these gaps. This exploratory study will examine New York City residents’ perceptions of sustainability, housing, and greenspace, while taking into account affordability as well as social or material imperatives as they relate to sustainability. Ultimately, this exploration intends to answer the following question: Are New York City residents’ beliefs about sustainability reflected in their personal behaviors and housing choices? Secondarily, this exploratory study aims to examine if the respondent’s relationship to greenspace correlates with their beliefs on sustainability, as well as their overall wellbeing.

The study was conducted through Polis, a relatively new survey tool that is focused on collecting participants’ thoughts in their own words, with advanced statistics and machine learning updating an analysis of their responses in real time. Participants are presented with a statement and are asked to respond by clicking on “Agree”, “Disagree”, or “Pass/Unsure”. They are also offered the option to submit their own statements, which are then reshuffled with existing statements and presented to other participants anonymously and at random. When there are at least 7 respondents, Polis uses principle component analysis and K-means clustering to combine respondents into groups based on similarities in responses to statements in the survey. Respondents are also able to see where they are grouped upon completion of the survey. The decision to use Polis for this particular exploratory study was based on an attempt to avoid limiting the perspective on sustainability to that of a researcher, and to gain insight into participants' genuine thoughts through their own words.