Welcome to EcoTypes! Below are some answers to the questions we frequently hear. If others, feel free to fill out the question form; thank you.
I haven’t heard of EcoTypes before; please give me the basics.
EcoTypes explores three questions:
- What world do we want? What is the place of nonhumans and humans in this world?
- What ways of knowing, old and new, will help us build this world?
- What forms of action, small and big, will help us build this world?
These questions are at the heart of differences expressed among roughly 10,000 responses to the EcoTypes survey. This is EcoTypes: an empirically-based exploration of environmental ideas, and our differences over these fundamental ideas. And it all boils down to a simple question:
What is your EcoType?
Here’s more information. EcoTypes is an educational and research initiative launched in 2017 by Prof. Jim Proctor of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR (USA). EcoTypes offers a free, anonymous survey, customized survey report, and online learning resources for participants to explore a wide range of environmental ideas, and to go deeper in their understanding of how we approach environmental issues.
As of 2023, roughly 10,000 respondents have completed the EcoTypes survey, representing approximately 100 institutions of higher education in the USA and other countries.
Though EcoTypes has initially focused on undergraduate students in American higher education, the online survey and resources are freely available to anyone. Additionally, higher education students can participate in our EcoTypes COIL (collaborative online international learning) opportunity.
Interested in the pilot new EcoTypes survey?
How long does it take to do the survey? How do I benefit?
The anonymous, English-language EcoTypes survey is quite detailed, so please allow about 20-30 minutes to take it. You’ll mark your level of agreement or disagreement with 24 statements, complete a climate priorities page, and optionally provide background information to help us understand patterns in responses.
Right after you submit it, you’ll receive a customized report that includes the three EcoTypes components: your EcoType, and theme and axis scores (plus your climate priorities). The report has a code you can enter if you wish to retrieve it any time in future. There is also an opportunity at the end for you to provide your email address, so that you can participate a confidential followup reflection form.
What was your motivation in launching EcoTypes?
This is Jim Proctor speaking here, to tell you my personal motivation behind EcoTypes. I’ve taught college-level environmental courses for over 30 years, and have written in the area of environmental theory for over three decades. My motivation in EcoTypes is to offer a more robust approach to how we understand, and engage across, difference in environmentalism.
Difference is a reality in our world today, one that offers both opportunities and challenges: opportunities to build larger, more diverse communities, and challenges related to getting along in these diverse communities. We often approach difference in terms of characteristics such as our nationality or politics, but what about our ideas?
What you’ll learn via EcoTypes is that we also differ in terms of some fundamental ideas that affect how we approach issues of environment. Ideas may sound far removed from issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental injustice, but our ideas affect how we understand and care for these issues.
It’s common to think that some people care about environmental issues and others don’t, but EcoTypes is based on the premise that many of us care about issues of environment, just differently. If we can better understand these differences of ideas, the ways we are like and unlike others in how we care, we can build a more inclusive environmentalism.
So, EcoTypes is intended to help us go deeper on environmental issues, not via greater understanding of the issues themselves—important in its own right—but by greater understanding of ourselves—the ideas we invoke as we approach these issues—and our similarities and differences with others.
How is EcoTypes like and unlike related initiatives?
There is a lot of interest in exploring environmental ideas. In comparison to this body of work, EcoTypes adopts a unique, linked conceptual and empirical approach—see the forthcoming book for more details.
There are many existing environmental concepts one might invoke to explore differences in how we approach environmental issues; consider for instance deep ecology, environmental justice, or sustainability. EcoTypes gets at this landscape of ideas more broadly and systematically, via twelve fundamental axes such as Aesthetics, Change, Nature, Spirituality, and Time—some of which may surprise you! Likewise, there are a number of conceptual typologies people have proposed to understand varied environmental approaches: one such typology identifies four shades of green: bright, lite, deep, and dark. But the seven common EcoTypes are derived directly from the twelve axes, statistically summarized via three themes—they aren’t just made up.
So, EcoTypes may be conceptually more broad and systematic than other approaches, and its conceptual scope builds on empirical data: the survey you and others complete. The survey ultimately yields your EcoType—sort of like 16 Personalities for how we approach environmental issues. There have been other surveys designed to empirically elicit our approach to environmental issues: one well-known example is the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), though it does not stretch far to embrace difference—there is just one supposed set of environmental ideas (the NEP)—and it is based on ideas of environmentalism scholars consider outdated.
Who came up with these axes, themes, and EcoTypes? Why isn’t there one on ____?
EcoTypes has been a collaborative effort, primarily involving college faculty and students across the USA. The idea was launched in 2016 at a Breakthrough Institute gathering, and developed via a series of annual workshops at Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences conferences. We started with six axes, and eventually expanded to as many as eighteen. Currently, there are twelve axes, including the top four for each of the three factor-analyzed themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action.
We came up with survey statements for these axes via existing survey instruments, as well as analysis of early survey data. Originally, there were eight statements for each axis, but in the most recent survey there are just two, statistically selected to represent many more.
It’s certainly possible to imagine additional EcoTypes axes!…the eighteen we have testec are far more than other environmental surveys, but they do not exhaust all possibilities. Themes and EcoTypes are another story. They are statistically derived from axes, via analysis of thousands of completed surveys. We had to put a name on themes and EcoTypes based on their statistical properties, but they are not made up.
Ultimately, consideration of whether or the EcoTypes initiative is adequately inclusive of a wide range of ideas is based on the three themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action, as they are the pivot between axes and EcoTypes.
I don’t think I can express my environmental ideas via a survey.
We understand that some people resist taking surveys, believing that they simplify often complex concepts. (Speaking for myself [Jim Proctor], I am often reluctant to complete surveys, for this very reason.)
But now, after analyzing thousands of responses, we see all sorts of patterns. These responses didn’t result in randomness: yes, we are each unique, and our environmental ideas and frameworks can be complex, but there are patterns of similarity and difference among us, and maybe we can learn from how we fit into these patterns.
These patterns come from statistical combinations of multiple survey statements, making the results more robust than just your answer to one or two questions. Take the EcoTypes survey and see your results for yourself—which include a statistical calculation of how well your data fit your assigned EcoType, vs. other EcoTypes. This information may help you better assess what EcoTypes does and does not capture in your particular approach to issues of environment.
I don’t like how EcoTypes axes and themes have opposing poles.
It’s important that, in order to appreciate difference, we appreciate a range of opinion on the fundamental environmental ideas captured in each axis, representing genuine differences in popular and/or scholarly perspectives.
The EcoTypes poles give us a simple way to express, and measure, this range of opinion. (The survey allows you to choose a midpoint if you don’t strongly lean toward one pole or the next.) They thus ask us to be honest in locating our own opinions: it’s okay not to believe in everything!
The axis poles admittedly are expressed strongly. You might want to approach them as strong vs. weak arguments—and if you do, try not to defend a strong argument via its weak form, a fallacy named after medieval castles!
The EcoTypes theme poles are different from axis poles: they were derived directly from factor analysis of their contributing axes, revealing the biggest differences (statistical variance) between us. By examining the poles of contributing axes, these theme poles thus summarize some fundamental differences among those who completed the survey; see here for details.
It’s understandable that some don’t feel comfortable with the conflict implied in these poles, and their respective survey statements. Many of us want both-and solutions that bring people together and don’t sound oppositional. This is a good thing! You can explore these ways of navigating difference via a dedicated module in our EcoTypes COIL.
EcoTypes themes suggest that our biggest questions about environmental issues may be resolved not via agreement, but what one could call creative tension or constructive disagreement. So, there may be productive ways to approach difference and disagreement as implied in EcoTypes poles, without denying the reality of this difference and disagreement around us.
If you’d like to explore difference further, consider participating in the followup reflection form after you complete the survey, as it focuses on how we navigate difference in EcoTypes, via a rubric of counting between one and two. Then you can participate on our EcoTypes COIL, an interactive, self-paced learning opportunity.
I’m an instructor. Where can I get more information?
See the Instructor FAQ for basic information on using EcoTypes in your course, and feel free to submit a question at any time.
Tell me more about the _____ on this website!
The EcoTypes website is a WordPress site, with most graphics and site content/layout/programming by Jim Proctor. Summary information on axes, themes, and EcoTypes was constructed using the Toolset suite of CPT plugins. The EcoTypes survey was constructed using Formidable Forms, with background numerical calculations and statistical comparison to 2022 responses. The EcoTypes COIL is built on the LearnDash LMS plugin.
The colors used on the EcoTypes site are a combination of the green that was used extensively on the original EcoTypes site, and the orange and blue that have been used in past on the Lewis & Clark College website. They are also used to signify the three EcoTypes themes of place (green), knowledge (blue), and action (orange).
There is some capitalization that deviates from standard usage. In general, each axis, theme, or EcoType is capitalized (e.g., Aesthetics, Place, or Small is Beautiful) to denote its particular meaning on the EcoTypes site.
The front page image, and the image used on Going Deeper sections, were developed from publicly-available Ansel Adams photographs, including “The Tetons and the Snake River” (1942), and “McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park” (1942). Thanks to Jenn Bernstein for early EcoTypes collaboration, including this idea.
The front page video was produced by Lewis & Clark College student Liv Ladaire…thank you, Olivia!
The dynamic graph of nearly 2500 EcoTypes in 2022 was developed by Jeremy McWilliams, Head of Digital Services, and student Haley R. of Lewis & Clark College using Plotly. Thank you, Haley and Jeremy!