Toward zero waste events: Reducing contamination in waste streams with volunteer assistance

Jiaying Zhao (IRES Professor) and Ivana Zelenika (PhD Candidate) have recently published a paper in the Waste Management journal.

Toward zero waste events: Reducing contamination in waste streams with volunteer assistance 


Jiaying Zhao


Assistant Professor, IRES
Assistant Professor, Psychology

Canada Research Chair (t2, Behavioral Sustainability)


What is psychology good for? How can psychology contribute to sustainability? To answer these questions, Dr. Zhao aims to use psychological principles to design behavioral solutions to address sustainability challenges. This approach offers insights on how cognitive mechanisms govern human behavior, and how behavioral interventions can inform the design and the implementation of public policy. Dr. Zhao is currently examining the cognitive causes and consequences of scarcity, what behavioral interventions improve the performance in low-income individuals, how to promote recycling and composting behavior, water and energy conservation, what cognitive, motivational, and sociocultural factors shape the perception of climate change, and how to engage the public on biodiversity conservation.

Google Scholar:


Toward sustainability: Cognitive and behavioral implications of resource scarcity
The paralysis of complexity in environmental action
Psychological consequences of poverty
Statistical cognition: Linking perception, learning and attention



Ivana Zelenika 




PhD Candidate


I am a PhD Candidate working with co-supervision of Dr. Jiaying Zhao (Psychology/ IRES) and Dr. John Robinson (Munk School of Global Affairs/ IRES). My current research is focused on what motivates pro-environmental behaviour change, with the majority of projects focusing on recycling and composting participation and accuracy, as well as how learning in natural environments (like UBC botanical gardens) can help motivate willingness and ability for action.

Theoretically I am attempting to synthesize insights from environmental psychology, socio-cultural theories and complex systems thinking as to how various elements come together to form sustainability pathways over time. Key elements I focus on involve material artifacts, motivation and knowledge. My research is supported by the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and the UBC 4 Year Fellowship.

Prior to coming to UBC I completed a Master’s of Environmental Studies at Queen’s University (Kingston) and a B.A. from Carleton University (Ottawa) in Environmental Studies (minor in Political Science).

I love being involved in community/ campus sustainability: at UBC I served as a Zero Waste Coordinator with Campus Sustainability/ Community Planning for 2 years in a work-learn position providing me with valuable ‘hands-on’ experience with rolling out campus-wide zero waste strategy. Previously at Queen’s University I was a Sustainability Coordinator for the Graduate Society where working with many groups, I helped bring 11MW of electricity generating PV panels to Queen’s rooftops, established an AMS run community garden, organized a campus-wide Recyclemania and numerous Documentary Nights.



Photo Credit: University of Scranton from flickr/ Creative Commons