Week 7: Drivers of Environmental Choices

“The Effects of Human Socioeconomic Status and Cultural Characteristics on Urban Patterns of Biodiversity” by Ann P. Kinzig et al, 2005.

Kinzig et al, 2005

This study looked into whether the socioeconomic status of different parks and neighborhoods would have an effect on the number of unique plant and bird species found in the area. They find that different factors affect biodiversity: people from different cultural backgrounds have different preferences for types of plantings, which in turn affects the bird biodiversity (more variety of plants usually leads to more variety of birds). Differing levels of financial flexibility also plays a role in what is planted, as people with more money to invest have a greater degree of control over the makeup and condition of their yard. The authors note that public spaces like parks are less likely to be affected by the socioeconomic character of an area than the private spaces of home lawns.

“Beyond ‘Lawn People’: The Role of Emotions in Suburban Yard Management Practices” by Edmund M. Harris et al, 2012.

This article systematizes the fact that different people have different dominant emotional response patterns that guide their relationship with their lawn and garden. The study authors divide respondents into one of three categories:

  • Diversifiers. These people are already introducing biodiversity into their planting decisions, many of them with an explicit purpose of increasing habitat for wildlife and birds. They tend to enjoy the process of gardening.
Diversifier profile, Harris et al 2012
  • Lawn Maintainers. This group generally maintains the turf lawn monoculture. Some of them enjoy the work and are dedicated to the turfgrass aesthetic, while some of them are reluctant to commit to the intensive practices required to support it.
Lawn Maintainer profile, Harris et al 2012
  • Reformers. People in this group are former reluctant Lawn Maintainers who are interested in diversifying their yards, but so far lack the knowledge, free time, or other resources to successfully implement this change.
Reformer profile, Harris et al 2012

The authors pointed out that most of the emotions that people had related to their yards were influenced heavily by the relationships that homeowners had with others. Emotional interactions between homeowners, wildlife, neighbors, and lawn service professionals all played into the overall relationship each person had with their yard.


While human dynamics are complex and labels have their limits, it is helpful to have categories to loosely organize different responses into because this allows me to make sure I’m speaking people across the whole spectrum of yard management preferences. I can balance my writing to ensure that I’m providing information relevant to Diversifiers, Lawn Maintainers, and Reformers alike.

The most intriguing part of the Kinzig et al study at the top is that they used Claritas PRIZM market segmentation data to compare the lifestyles and socioeconomic characteristics of the observed neighborhoods. The article was not very detailed, so I’m not coming away with a lot of specific information, but it is a helpful reminder to think about how people’s individual life circumstances affect their decision-making in the real world.