Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Lynn Rapaport

Reader 2

Char Miller

Reader 3

Marina Pérez de Mendiola

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Zoe A Cardwell-Copenhefer


This thesis explores small business owners, small businesses, and environmental sustainability in an affluent, suburban, Southern California community. Drawing on 13 semi-structured interviews with business owners operating food service or retail establishments, I show that business owners use the notion of personal responsibility and agency when analyzing environmental sustainability in their businesses. Owners are divided over the group responsible for environmental harm, just as they are divided over the group responsible for addressing environmental issues. Furthermore, I show that despite owners’ interest in improving their business’ sustainability measures, they encounter financial and logistical obstacles to sustainability. Owners are disadvantaged through practicality-mandated unsustainability or advantaged through inherent sustainability. Finally, I consider the importance of place – the role of the local government, why sustainability in this community is unique, and how customers influence business owners’ sustainability practices. This research contributes to scholarship on small business owners and the environment, a topic that has received little sociological attention.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.