Pollution, whether from micro-plastics or facemasks, is increasingly an issue on people’s agenda. While we go out on World Cleanup Day or Shoreline Cleanups to pick up trash, one solution to pollution that may be overlooked is encouraging people to participate in culture.

Recycled materials create a joyful city scape.

A 2015 paper in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics authored by Alessandro Crociata, Massimiliano Agovino, and Pier Luigi Sacco undeniably establishes the link: “The analysis highlights a strong positive relation between the propensity to take part in some cultural activities and the propensity to abide by waste recycling guidelines and prescriptions.”

In other words: participating in some cultural activities and recycling are two sides of the same coin. And just in case you’re wondering about causation and correlation, yes, culture causes recycling.

The authors looked at various kinds of cultural participation. Especially reading books and newspapers and visits to the cinema have a positive effect on recycling habits. A visit to a museum or exhibition also contributes. Other art forms and cultural activities also have some effect, but in the study this was too small to be significant.

A major factor here is accessibility. People need to be exposed regularly to culture for it to “contribute to the shaping of social awareness and attention for environmental issues, and concern for the perspectives of future generations.” A visit to the theatre or opera simply doesn’t happen often enough to have an impact.

In our quest to a more sustainable world and a circular economy, encouraging people to participate in culture regularly may be a powerful tool.