Indicators of pro-environmental behavior
As an integral part of the environmental sustainability concept, pro-environmental behavior increasingly attracts scholarly attention (Kennedy et al., 2015). It is defined as “individual behaviors contributing to environmental sustainability (such as limiting energy consumption, avoiding waste, recycling, and environmental activism)” (Mesmer-Magnus, Viswesvaran, & Wiernik, 2012, p. 160). Pro-environmental behavior can be performed either publicly or privately and is characterized to be intentional as well as freely selected. Following previous research, this study applies two indicators of pro-environmental behavior: Pro-environmental actions (Diekmann & Preisendörfer, 2003) and carbon footprint (Wicker, 2019).
First, pro-environmental actions can be divided into four behavioral categories, namely recycling (waste), shopping (consumption), energy, and transportation behavior (Diekmann & Preisendörfer, 2003). Most commonly, those categories were studied separately from each other and not altogether (e.g., Casper, McCullough, & Pfahl, 2020). Within sport, recycling behavior was examined among sport spectators in college sports (Casper et al., 2020) and running event participants (Trail & McCullough, 2018). In contrast, energy and general consumption behavior has not been investigated in the sport context.
Second, an individual’s carbon footprint is regarded as a quantitative indicator for pro-environmental behavior (Dolf & Teehan, 2015). It is defined as “a measure of the exclusive total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product” (Wiedmann & Minx, 2008, p. 4). In detail, the concept of carbon footprint allows the inclusion of different greenhouse gases (i.e., methane and nitrous oxide). These are converted into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e) which are accountable for 75% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC, 2018). Following Wicker (2019), low emission levels reflect high levels of pro-environmental behavior.
Carbon footprint analysis needs clear organizational, temporal, and operational boundaries (Franchetti & Apul, 2013). In this study, the organizational boundary includes active, adult members of voluntary sport clubs with permanent residency in Germany, while the temporal boundary refers to one month. Concerning the operational boundary, three different scopes of emissions are distinguished. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions resulting from the individual itself through consumptions of fuel, i.e., driving to training sessions in the present research context. Scope 2 and 3 emissions are indirect emissions (i.e., energy usage in the sport club) which are important for a full life-cycle assessment of carbon footprint analyses. However, they cannot be easily observed or reported, making it impossible for participants to possess the needed information (Franchetti & Apul, 2013). Accordingly, only scope 1 emissions are included in this research.
With growing awareness of climate change as a global problem and the need for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in connection with CO2 emissions trading, carbon footprint analysis has gained increased attention in the field of sport in recent years. Particularly, the carbon footprints of sport spectators (e.g., Collins, Munday, & Roberts, 2012), sport tourists (Wicker, 2018), and sport participants (e.g., Wicker, 2019) were investigated. For example, the average carbon footprint of spectators was estimated at 7.67 kg CO2-e in the 2003/2004 FA Cup final (Collins, Flynn, Munday, & Roberts, 2007), 20.2 kg CO2-e at the 2004 Wales Rally (Jones, 2008), 25.4 kg CO2-e at the 2014 World Orienteering Championships (Scrucca, Severi, Galvan, & Brunori, 2016), and 50.5 kg CO2-e for at the UK stages of the 2007 Tour de France (Collins et al., 2012). Carbon footprints were also estimated for different types of active sport participants, including members of sport teams (Chard & Mallen, 2012; Dolf & Teehan, 2015), snow sport tourists (Wicker, 2018), and general sport participants in different sports (Wicker, 2019). Looking at the sports included in this work, the latter study identified average annual carbon footprints from 243.1 kg CO2-e (tennis) to 681.3 kg CO2-e (basketball), with training-related traveling representing the largest contributor. Accordingly, this study uses the carbon footprint caused by traveling to the weekly training as indicator of pro-environmental behavior.
Determinants of pro-environmental behavior
While the role of different factors in explaining pro-environmental behavior has been mainly explored beyond sport (e.g., Leach, 2007; Nilsson & Küller, 2000), little research has been conducted within grassroots sport (Wicker, 2019). The next paragraphs discuss the anticipated effects of environmental consciousness, gender, and income on pro-environmental behavior.
The concept of environmental consciousness includes cognitive (e.g., knowledge about environmental consequences of behavior), conative (e.g., willingness to act and protect the environment), and emotional components (e.g., reaction to environmental damages; Diekmann & Preisendörfer, 2003). Since the connection between environmental attitudes, awareness, and pro-environmental behavior is complex in nature, multiple theoretical approaches were provided to explain what determines individuals’ pro-environmental behavior (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). The theory of planned behavior describes the link between behavioral intentions and actual behavior, with attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control affecting the strength of behavioral intentions (Ajzen, 1991). This intention–behavior relationship was empirically confirmed through multiple experimental tests (Webb & Sheeran, 2006). Drawing on this theory, stronger environmental consciousness is expected to translate into pro-environmental behavior. The positive relationship between environmental consciousness and pro-environmental behavior is also supported by other theoretical models (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).
However, empirical studies discovered mixed results. For example, Kennedy et al. (2015) showed that environmental consciousness is the strongest predictor of pro-environmental behavior beyond sport. Likewise, higher environmental consciousness was positively associated with environmentally friendly travel behavior (Nilsson & Küller, 2000). Within sport, a positive relationship was documented between environmental beliefs and pro-environmental behavioral intentions among spectators in collegiate athletics (Casper, Pfahl, & McCullough, 2014). In contrast, other studies suggested that environmental consciousness does not automatically turn into pro-environmental behavior. For example, investigations of athletic department members (Casper et al., 2014), sport tourists (Wicker, 2018), and participants in individual and nature sports (Wicker, 2019) revealed a gap between environmental consciousness and actual behavior which is called the “environmental value–action gap” (Blake, 1999, p. 268). Despite the mixed empirical evidence, the first hypothesis is in line with presented theoretical arguments:
The higher an individual’s environmental consciousness, the higher his/her level of pro-environmental behavior.
The role of gender has been widely discussed in environmental research, with several studies indicating that women act more environmentally friendly than men (e.g., Casper, Pfahl, & McCullough, 2017; Leach, 2007). This gender difference is explained by different conceptualizations of the world, resulting in the concept of ecofeminism (Sakellari & Skanavis, 2013). One component of this conceptualization is women’s stronger altruism and a caring ethic that has its origin in role allocations within families and expanded into caring for the environmental nature (Leach, 2007).
Several studies confirmed the concept of ecofeminism empirically (e.g., Briscoe, Givens, Hazboun, & Krannich, 2019). For instance, women were found to express stronger environmental concern than men, yielding a higher engagement in pro-environmental behavior in private and public spheres (Briscoe et al., 2019). This concern translates not only into better recycling behavior (Longhi, 2013), but also into a higher likelihood of environmentally friendly shopping behavior (Lynn & Longhi, 2011). Moreover, women showed more environmentally friendly travel behavior than men (Briscoe et al., 2019; Nilsson & Küller, 2000). Within sport, female spectators rated environmental initiatives as an important factor for purchasing tickets and improving the university’s image, while they were also more likely to undertake environmental activities at home and during sport events (Casper et al., 2017). Even though some studies could not find gender differences in sport pro-environmental behavior (Wicker, 2018, 2019), the first part of the second hypothesis follows the theoretical arguments and large parts of the empirical evidence:
Women behave more environmentally friendly than men.
The environmental literature also stresses that women have stronger environmental attitudes and concern than men (e.g., Sakellari & Skanavis, 2013; Zelezny, Chua, & Aldrich, 2000). Even though gender differences are higher when it comes to actual pro-environmental behavior (Zelezny et al., 2000), environmental attitudes and concern represent important preconditions for behaving in an environmentally friendly manner (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). The moderating role of environmental consciousness is reflected in the second part of the second hypothesis:
The association between female gender and pro-environmental behavior is moderated by environmental consciousness in the sense that environmentally conscious women behave more environmentally friendly.
Income also plays a role in explaining individuals’ pro-environmental behavior, with two competing theoretical explanations being available regarding the anticipated effect (e.g., Brand & Preston, 2010; Clark, Kotchen, & Moore, 2003). On the one hand, the luxury good hypothesis holds that wealthier people are more likely to perform pro-environmental behavior which is typically costly, and only people with higher incomes can afford it (Preisendörfer, 1999). This assumption was empirically confirmed for purchasing environmentally friendly products (Laroche, Bergeron, & Barbaro-Forleo, 2001) and investing in energy efficient programs (Clark et al., 2003).
On the other hand, income was found to be negatively associated with pro-environmental travel behavior (e.g., Brand & Preston). This pattern is rooted in high income classes having a higher demand for air travel (Brons, Pels, Nijkamp, & Rietveld, 2002) and car usage (Brand & Preston, 2010), resulting in more greenhouse gas emissions than individuals with lower income. Within sport, income was found to be positively associated with travel distances (Whitehead & Wicker, 2018), ultimately yielding higher carbon footprints for active sport tourists (Wicker, 2018) and sport participants (Wicker, 2019). Given the diverse expectations for both indicators of pro-environmental behavior, the third hypothesis is two-fold:
Income is positively associated with pro-environmental actions.
Income is positively associated with an individual’s carbon footprint.