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Friday, April 30, 2010

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

During the Copenhagen talks, the “Copenhagen Wheel” was launched. It converts any bicycle into a ‘smart bike’ by using hybrid technology to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking into a battery, which is then used to boost the energy required for e.g. towing a trailer with children or carrying heavy shopping. This June, Copenhagen will be hosting Velo-City Global 2010 – an international conference to promote cycling in cities. For more details, go to:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - The Importance of Being a Role Model

"A friend (we shall refer to her as “N”), who had previously been reluctant to consider cycling the flat 4km to her workplace, astounded me by revealing that she had purchased a scooter (the non-motorised kind) for the daily commute. What prompted this change of heart? “As I started my drive to work one day, I noticed a neighbour setting off on her scooter. Nearing my office after about 20min of sitting in peak hour traffic, my neighbour zipped past me on her scooter. I thought, ‘if she can do it, so can I”. This story is a simple, yet powerful, illustration of the influence of role models on our own behaviour.

Our willingness to adopt a new way of doing things can be stimulated by a lot of factors. One of them is through seeing that our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours tried it and it worked for them.

To what extent are people influenced by others to perform environmentally friendly behaviours? Some investigations have been undertaken, although the research in this area is a bit limited.

A study in 1998 compared the formative influences of a 9-nation sample of people engaged in environmental action. Although direct contact with nature throughout ones life was considered the most important precursor to environmental commitment, the influence of other people was 2nd highest, mentioned by 40% of those interviewed. 22% of Australian interviews cited the influence of “friends” as an important factor in shaping their environmental views. In reviewing the literature in this field, the authors comment that “as early as the 1940s and 1950s, researchers had demonstrated that mass media directly influence a small part of their audience at best, but that face-to-face contacts with other people influence most people”.

In terms of the direct influence of others on behaviour change, a notable study was undertaken in the Netherlands, where researchers looked at the diffusion of information about a community energy conservation program, and people’s willingness to adopt the measures it recommended. The study found that peoples awareness of the program was directly related to the quantity of contacts they had within their community, while their decision to adopt the measures was related to the strength of their ties in the community. In other words, if people interacted regularly with their neighbours, they were more likely to hear about the program. Furthermore, if they felt that the people they interacted with were trustworthy and had their interests at heart, they were more likely to adopt the measures recommended in the program.

Finally, a study of energy conservation measures by Darley and Beniger presented a strong case that “information which determines peoples perceptions of innovations is more likely to be transmitted via social networks rather than mass media or other channels of communication”. The authors discuss the adoption of these measures in terms of a theory of innovation, which proposes that we consider 5 key factors before adopting an innovation

a) The relative advantage of the new innovation over our current system
b) The compatibility with our values
c) The complexity of the innovation
d) The trialability (can we try before we buy?)
e) The observability of the benefits (can we see them?)

Effective role modelling can be seen to perform a number of these functions. Let’s take the earlier anecdote, re my friend with the scooter. The relative advantage was evident, as “N” could see that her neighbour got to work at least as fast, and probably with less cost and stress (this covers “observability” as well). Value compatibility is less obvious to the observer, but “N” seemed pretty happy with her decision. Riding a scooter does not seem too complex (in fact, “N” commented that the neighbour did not look especially athletic!). Trialability was not required in this case, although could be handled by borrowing a scooter, or test-driving one at the shop.

Therefore, not only does role modelling give the impression of a social norm of environmental responsibility, at a more specific level it can provide the conditions for others to try a new behaviour that they have previously not considered, or deemed too hard, expensive or ineffective.

If your aim is to provide leadership in the area of environmental stewardship, then role modelling is an effective, easy way to start. You don’t need to lecture people, have difficult conversations, or tell people they are wrong. There are, however, a few ways you can help the process along, and make your own behaviours more contagious

· Make it visible
· Tell people about it
· Demonstrate it to them
· Provide people with resources and information for doing it
· Help them, or join them, in getting started

The great thing is, role modelling is exponential. If your acquaintances go on to become role models themselves, then we stand a good chance of reaching the tipping point in sustainable behaviours which our society and planet are in desperate need of."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Doing It For The Money

"For a large percentage of individuals and organisations, the most compelling case for engaging in environmentally sustainable behaviours is to save money, or make money. For that reason, the most popular green initiatives appear to be the ones where it can be demonstrated that it will be good for the bottom line. Changing to energy efficient light bulbs, for instance, is one such measure. Making a house more draft resistant in order to save on heating costs is another.
At corporate level, leaders often need to see the dollar benefits prior to signing off on green initiatives. Preferably these benefits take the form of cold hard cash savings, but there is increasing recognition of the importance to the balance sheet of good corporate citizenship and employee attractiveness.
This raises the question – does money work effectively as a motivator for green behaviours, and under which circumstances?
There is a fair amount of evidence which suggests that, yes, financial considerations do have an impact on our behaviour when it comes to the environment. A 2005 review of research into household energy savings found that, by and large, measures such as providing monetary rewards for electricity savings have proved to be successful. Fluctuations in petrol prices have also proven to be a powerful motivator for seeking alternatives to driving to work, providing further evidence of the impact of money on our decisions.
There are, however, a number of limitations to the so-called “rational-economic model”, which assumes that people’s engagement in certain behaviours is determined by whether or not it is in their financial interests to do so. For instance, the 2005 review outlined above found that, although financial incentives showed success for initial engagement in sustainable behaviours, the effects were often short-lived. These findings were echoed by De Young, who found that the effects of incentives often wore off when the financial reinforcement was discontinued.
Another review, by Gonzales, examined the ineffectiveness of a large-scale energy audit program in the USA, which provided free energy audits and incentives to undertake energy saving retrofits. The study concluded that the reason for the poor uptake of energy-efficient actions was due to the lack of persuasive communication by the auditors – in other words, people need to be able to ­see the financial benefits of acting. Gonzales demonstrated this theory by training a group of auditors in persuasion techniques, which greatly increased the uptake of energy efficient actions in those households visited by the trained auditors.
There is also a strong body of evidence which suggests that our reason for adopting green behaviours will influence the degree to which we stick with them in the long term. This theory contends that, when we make a green choice for the sake of the environment (rather than just money), we are more likely to see ourselves as pro-environment, and therefore more likely to adopt similar behaviours which will help reinforce this perception of ourselves. This effect has been demonstrated in relation to social responsibility by Burger and Caldwell, who observed that “Participants given $1 to sign a homelessness petition were less likely to see themselves as altruistic than participants not given the monetary incentive. The paid participants also complied less often with a request to work on a canned food drive 2 days later than unpaid participants”.
Therefore, if our aim is to promote a range of pro-environment behaviours by providing an initial incentive to get people started, we may find that indeed the target behaviour increased, but there is no evidence to suggest that this will spill over to other green behaviours (something discussed at length in the WWF article Simple and Painless)
There are a couple of areas where the provision or emphasis of a financial incentive can have a worthwhile effect on increasing the uptake of green behaviour.
The first is where we want people to take a single action in order to reduce their ongoing impact on the planet. For example, an incentive to purchase a more energy efficient appliance or vehicle will have lasting effects, even if the purchase behaviour itself is short-term. In this case, we are unlikely to be concerned with the reason for the purchase, and whether any change in attitude occurred – just getting people to undertake that one green purchasing behaviour is the sole purpose.
The second way in which an incentive can play an important role in promoting sustainable behaviour is by acting as a disruptor of habitual behaviour. Habits are held in place by stable, recurring conditions which make it easy for us to perform the behaviour without thinking or weighing up the pros and cons each time. It has been demonstrated that a disruption to those conditions can be enough to cause us to re-examine our habitual behaviour, and potentially trial and adopt a new, more sustainable habit. A change in the “pay-off” may be enough to serve as a disruptor, as demonstrated in a study by Fujii & Kitamura , who found that providing a free one-month bus ticket to drivers led to a significant and sustained increase in bus use among those drivers. In this case, the purpose of the incentive is to provide a stimulus to encourage a trial of a new behaviour, rather than as an ongoing reinforcer of that behaviour.
To summarise, financial incentives appear to have some value in triggering short term changes in behaviour. Where the short term is enough to satisfy our aim, either by encouraging an immediate behaviour which has a long-term effect, or by activating a trial of a new behaviour, then financial incentives are a valuable inclusion in the behaviour change toolkit."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ARRCC Eco-Awards Dinner 2010 : Nominate your church for an award today!

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) is holding an inaugural Eco-Awards Dinner on 5th June 2010, World Environment Day (in Sydney) to formally recognise and promote environmental achievements within faith communities.

The Eco-Awards Dinner will recognise achievements and encourage other faith communities to take up the climate change challenge. This event is an opportunity for faiths to celebrate the diversity of our contributions to these pressing issues that affect every person on Earth.

ARRCC encourages all faith communities to consider nominating for an award and attending the event.

Further details at:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Feedback: A Measured Approach

"In recent times we have been presented with plenty of opportunities to measure “how we’re going” with regards to our environmental behaviour. Many power and gas bills now include a graph which shows our total emissions compared to last month, while we are often being invited to measure our carbon footprint through online calculators. Home energy audits are another common initiative being promoted by councils and other various organisations. The assumption is that, by monitoring our resource use, we are more likely to reduce it. But does that assumption hold water?
At first glance, the answer appears to be “yes”. A review of various studies into the impact of audits and other feedback mechanisms reveals that, for the most part, people do indeed subsequently reduce their resource use. Norwegian research found that the inclusion of usage data in electricity bills, including comparisons to previous years consumption, led to significant reductions in electricity use. A 2008 study into the results of a household energy audit program in Western Australia found that 71% of participants reported noticing a decrease in their domestic energy use as a result of participating in the program.
A useful summary of research into the effectiveness of feedback was conducted in 2006 for DEFRA by Sarah Darby, who concludes that “savings have been shown in the region of 5-15% and 0-10% for direct and indirect feedback respectively”.
Why does feedback work? There are a number of plausible mechanisms by which receiving feedback can motivate green behaviour, all of which may apply to some extent.
The most simple explanation is that it gives us a sense of control over our actions. When we are able to see the effect of the changes we are making, we have more of a sense of power and control – factors which have been demonstrated as important drivers of environmentally sustainable behaviour.
Another possible driver of the feedback-behaviour link, particularly where we are actively involved in the feedback process, is the idea of cognitive consistency. This refers to our motivation for our behaviour to match our beliefs and values. If we care enough to get an energy audit done, for instance, then we are likely to consider ourselves engaged in the idea of energy conservation. If we then act contrary to this belief, by failing to take any measures to reduce our energy consumption, we are likely to feel a sense of hypocrisy, or cognitive dissonance. This may have been the case in the findings by the Norwegian researchers cited above, who observed that asking residents to read their own meters and report the data had a particularly strong effect on reducing consumption. The act of being actively involved appears to have cemented the belief that “I am engaged in this process”.
Yet another explanation for the impact of feedback may be that it disrupts our consumption habits. It is generally accepted that habits consist largely of behaviours which are undertaken unconsciously. For instance, leaving the tap on while brushing our teeth is one unconscious behaviour which many people still do, even though it can waste over 4000 litres of water per year. The introduction of feedback may be enough of an intervention to cause people to think about their behaviour and recognise where they could change their habits – without the feedback, people may simply never give it any thought.
Although it is apparent that feedback on its own can have some positive effects, most studies conducted in this area recognise that feedback as a standalone intervention is not guaranteed to produce long-lasting results, and indeed may be a wasted opportunity when not combined with other measures to encourage conservation behaviour. Indeed, most of the studies themselves make use of several tactics to change behaviour. Most commonly, feedback is combined with tips for how people can change their behaviour.
A 2007 Dutch study found that a combination of feedback, goal-setting and tailored information resulted in a 5.1% reduction in household energy use.
A study of “EcoTeams” found that a combination of information, feedback and social interaction resulted in significant changes in household behaviour, including a 32% reduction in waste to landfill. The researchers emphasise the importance of a socially supportive environment in facilitating the likelihood of behaviour change. This may also have the effect of activating the “social norm” which drives us to want to fit in and keep up with others in our community.
To summarise, feedback appears to be a vital part of many behaviour change efforts. Not only does it get people actively engaged and thinking about their behaviour, but it can give them the sense of power and control over their outcomes which is important for motivating them to change. Feedback can be an even more effective tool when combined with other tactics which support behaviour change."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - How Green?

Marketers love it when they can slice their audience into “segments”. This means that they can identify different groups according to their purchasing patterns, and target them with specific offers which are likely to appeal to their particular characteristics, values and tastes.

Not surprisingly, given the growth in general environmental concern, attention has been turned to identifying segments within the population when it comes to green issues. While much of this focus has been driven by a desire to capture a bigger slice of the “green dollar”, there are some useful insights to be gained for those wishing to influence not only purchasing preference, but also other types of environmentally significant behaviour.

In an attempt to define these green segments, a number of models have been proposed over the years. In the early 1990’s Mintel, a leading market research group, divided people into Dark Green, Light Green, Pale Green, Armchair Green, and Unconcerned. The highly active Deep Greens tended to be females, with children, while the Armchair Greens were those who espoused concern but had not changed their behaviour much accordingly. 1 in 10 people were Unconcerned, with 2% actively “anti-green”. This work was replicated in a 1996 study in Northern Ireland, who found a similar set of segments, which they called Super-Green, Emerging Green, Experimental Green, Potential Green and Anti-Green.

More recently, the term LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) has gained popularity. LOHAS is described as “a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice” (from Since the LOHAS market was identified and named in 2000, various studies have estimated the market to be worth over $200b in the United States and as much as $19b in Australia. So it is no surprise that identifying and capturing these people has become a big deal for business.

Although these and other studies have given various names to the segments which they have identified, there seems to be a consistent pattern in the size and makeup of the groups. Roughly 15-20% fit into the highly committed/deep green/supergreen segment. Then comes a cluster of around 50-70% of the population who are moderates – they are concerned about the environment, and will undertake some green behaviours, but do not always make it a priority. Finally, a hard core of 10-20% of people are either unconcerned with environmental issues, or actively hostile towards them.

One of the key reasons for focusing on these segments is to identify what it is that defines them. One of the main factors appears to be the degree to which they are prepared to make sacrifices to be environmentally responsible. While highly “Committed”s are prepared to pay a higher price and suffer a certain amount of inconvenience to choose the green option, more moderate segments will only choose the green option if all other things are equal. Convenience and price are major considerations for this group.

The segments also appear to differ in their view of where responsibility for environmental matters should lie. Australian research, for instance, found that only the highly committed group believed on average that individuals should do more to protect the environment. Indeed personal responsibility appears to go hand in hand with the degree of power which people feel they have to make a difference. Stewart Barr, a leading UK researcher, found in a series of focus groups that many less committed people cite distrust in government and business as a reason for not making an effort themselves. The attitude that emerges is that “if the big institutions are not going to make serious changes, what difference can I make”.

The identification of such segments can assist us in tailoring our approach to behaviour change programs. As Barr points out, different barriers for action exist for different segments. If we know what drives people, it makes it easier to influence them. Here are a few tips for influencing the different green segments.

Committed’s are prepared to place environmental considerations as a high priority, therefore the green credentials of a behaviour or product need to be emphasised to this group. They are likely to be well-informed and shrewd in their evaluation of such things, and therefore a pretty holeproof case needs to be made.

Moderates are more sensitive to price and convenience, therefore any perceived barriers to these considerations need to be removed where possible, and the net benefits emphasised. They also want to be seen to be doing the right thing, as they are not radicals, so any effort to draw their attention to the social desirability of the target behaviour is likely to assist.

Finally, those who are Unconcerned or actively anti-green, as outlined above, often express a view that it is not their responsibility, and therefore any attempt to influence these people needs to start at an attitudinal level. Beginning at the right level and aiming for incremental shifts is an underlying principle promoted by many of the researchers cited above.

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Monday, April 19, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Identity

"Many of our behavioural choices are driven by what we believe about ourselves. This set of beliefs about who we are and what we care about is called our self-identity (or self-concept).

The reason that self-identity is of interest to those who seek to influence behaviour change is that, if we can link the desired behaviour to the individuals identity, they are more likely to adopt it. One of the mechanisms by which identity influences behaviour is through our desire to maintain congruence between who we think we are and our actions, thus maintaining “cognitive consistency”, and avoiding the discomfort of “cognitive dissonance” (see Wake-Up Call Feb 2008 for more on the latter).

The power of self-identity in predicting behaviour was demonstrated in a 2008 study, in which the researchers added self-identity to a set of factors already included in a widely accepted model for predicting green behaviour. It was found that “self-identity emerged as an independent predictor of environmental activism intentions, indicating that the stronger participants’ sense of themselves as environmental activists, the greater their intentions to engage in this behaviour”. While this is not immediately surprising, it should be remembered that there is a very large gap between people’s reported concern for environmental matters, and their subsequent actions. Therefore, the quest to isolate the psychological factors which do predict green behaviour occupies a lot of attention for environmental educators.

This all begs the question as to how we harness the power of identity as a tool for effective behaviour change. The world of marketing may provide some answers. Marketers have long known about identity, and have fashioned a whole science around “consumer identity marketing”. A good discussion of some of the relevant concepts of identity-based marketing can be found here. The article uses the example of Nike’s “just do it” slogan, where “the whole idea is to try to link the Nike brand name to the athlete identity in such a way that the various products (shoes, watches, and clothing) become like a “prop” in terms of helping consumers enact their athlete identities.”

Americus Reed, a leading researcher on identity-related marketing, describes in a 2005 article the factors involved in invoking an identity through communication. The identity must be…

· Salient – meaning we have to be thinking about ourselves in that way when the message is delivered.
· Self-important - that is, it needs to be a powerful identity for us that we have a lot invested in.
· Relevant to the product – meaning that we must perceive a strong link between the product (or behavioural choice) being presented, and the identity which is being linked to it.
· Provides a basis to respond – it must be clear that “this what we need to do in order to make a choice which is consistent with this identity”

If we were to consider this list in terms of promoting a green behaviour, then an identity-based approach to selling the green message would be most effective when people are concerned about green issues and how they relate to them personally (salience & self-importance), and it must be clear to them exactly which behavioural choice is most environmentally friendly (relevance), and how to adopt it (basis to respond).

This checklist can present a few challenges. In order to increase the salience of an identity, something must occur to get people thinking about themselves through that identity. Therefore, the most effective timing to prompt the green identity will be when people are feeling particularly green, such as when they are taking public transport, making a green purchasing decision, or attending a function where the green message is being communicated. If this is not possible, then the message must include something to get people thinking about themselves in relation to the environment.

While salience is a temporary state which can be prompted, self-importance is a more solid attitude which may be less easily prompted. If a target audience does not view themselves as environmentally minded, it will be a tall order to appeal to an environmental identity. In that regard, one may be better off designing an approach which recognises the extent to which a green option is consistent with an identity which this group ­does hold, such as a one which is family-oriented, or innovate, or savvy.

Fortunately, there is some evidence that repetition can lead to the development of identity. This means that if we can get people to try a behaviour a number of times (perhaps by providing a short-term incentive), then they will start to create a belief that “I am this type of person”. Once this identity is in place, then it should be easier to engage them in future behaviours which fit with that identity."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Consciousness & Competence

"Is there a skill involved in living sustainably? If we decide that that answer is “yes”, then it might be useful to consider ways in which that skill is developed. One valuable model for examining skill development is known as “The Four Stages of Competence” (although is referred to by other names also. See Wikipedia for some background). The model illustrates that learning a new skill can involve 4 distinct stages of consciousness and competence, as follows
1. Unconscious Incompetence – where we don’t know what we don’t know. We are either not aware that we lack a certain skill, or we are deluded about our lack of skill
2. Conscious Incompetence – where we are aware that we lack a skill. This is where we know that we are incompetent at something. This can be a bit frustrating and disillusioning, but is also the first stepping stone to learning a skill, as it contains an acknowledgement that we need to improve.
3. Conscious Competence – where we have a skill, but we have to concentrate to perform it effectively. At this level, we have developed the ability to perform a task, but it takes a lot of our mental resources in order to do it well.
4. Unconscious Competence – where we can do it without thinking. This is where we have integrated a skill so well that we do not have to dedicate many of our mental resources to performing it. We talk about it coming naturally, being instinctual or “like riding a bike”.

How can we apply this model to educating people to act more sustainably? Firstly, it should be acknowledged that “incompetence” is probably not a constructive label for behaviour which we would like to influence. There is a good chance that people will react badly if we label their transport choices, water use, or recycling behaviour as “incompetent”. However, in the interests of examining the model, we will stick with the original labels, while acknowledging their limitations.

Although the Four Stages model is usually applied to conventional skill development, it also makes sense when we apply it to behaviour related to sustainability. For instance, in relation to recycling behaviour, we see the following levels

1. Unconscious Incompetence – We don’t know that things can be recycled, and continue to throw paper, glass, plastics etc in the general waste bin.
2. Conscious Incompetence – We have found out that there are a lot of things which we are throwing in the waste bin which could be recycled. But we are choosing not to bother, or perhaps are not sure which things are able to be recycled. Maybe we are feeling a bit rebellious about it, or guilty, but our behaviour has not changed.
3. Conscious Competence – We are now taking care to recycle as much as we can remember. Every time we go to put something in the waste bin, a voice inside our heads reminds us to check if it can be recycled. It is taking a bit of effort, but we are doing an OK job.
4. Unconscious Competence – Recycling is now our default behaviour. We automatically choose recyclable products, and our first instinct is to use the recycling bin, rather than the waste bin – which is only there as a last resort .

Knowing that these different levels exist can be useful for any educators, including those who are trying to influence behaviour related to sustainability. If we can identify at which level our target audience is currently operating, we can more effectively choose an intervention.

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 can be achieved by simple awareness raising. Recognising that there is something different we could be doing is an important step in behaviour change. If we don’t know it’s broke, we can’t fix it. Role modelling can also assist at this point. When people see something being done differently, they often relate it to their own behaviour and recognise the gap.

The step from Level 2 to Level 3 involves skill development or attitude change. This can range from water saving tips around the home or education in composting skills, through to providing incentives and outlining the benefits of acting sustainably.

Lastly, moving from Level 3 to Level 4 requires the formation of habits. While some habits are undesirable from a sustainability point of view, they can also work in our favour. When something becomes habitual, we no longer have to invest many mental resources in it, and we are likely to be consistent in our behaviour. We can support the formation of habits by providing stable, consistent conditions for that behaviour to be performed (eg. a regular recycling service, reliable public transport) (Habits are discussed in more detail in a previous Wake-Up Call).

If more people can be supported to increase their “competence” around sustainability, to the point where it is no longer a difficult choice, but rather a natural way of living, then we can not only invest our time and resources in the next group of people to influence, but we also have a new set of allies and role models at our side."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

A Guide to Developing a ‘Green Team’ in Your Faith Community – From Greening Sacred Spaces

We are strong believers in the power of small groups to change the world. Your efforts to live more sustainably, combined with others, send a powerful message to your faith community, neighbourhood, and beyond. It sends a message that you are increasingly living in a sacred balance with creation — a spiritually rewarding journey that opens us to the beauty, wonder, and responsibility of harmonious living with the Earth.

In this guide we look at the various changes you could put in place to make your faith community a greener place. But knowing and talking about things is not the same as actually doing them. That is what this guide is for — to help you get things done by examining the processes that you might use to realize your green vision. We’ll look at personal initiative as well as the art of joining with others to create a ‘Green Team’, and the kinds of activities your team could promote around your sacred space.

This document is designed to help develop a group of members in your faith community who wish to actively promote eco-sustainability. It offers advice on recruiting, motivating, and organizing people, and provides a number of suggestions about what a ‘green team’ can do to help bring about change.

Download from:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability- Attitudes

"Unsurprisingly, a key determinant of our likelihood to engage in green behaviour is our attitude towards it. Do we think it is a good idea? Do we think our efforts will be worth it?

Attitudes are our judgments or evaluations towards a certain object or behaviour. Several studies, including a 2007 meta-analysis, have found attitudes to be among the most important factors predicting our pro-environment behaviour. So it is worth investigating how attitudes form, and how we can influence them.
Attitudes are assembled from three types of information: beliefs about the objects characteristics, feelings and emotions about the object, and information about past and current actions toward the object. For instance, we may have developed a positive attitude towards cycling through an analysis of its merits (belief), a good feeling that we get from it (emotions), or a series of successful cycling experiences (past actions). Often a combination of all three serve to create an attitude.
It is worth noting that knowledge alone does not necessarily change attitudes. For example, while knowledge is an important piece of the puzzle for people to start cycling, a number of other things will also affect a persons attitude towards cycling, such as perception of weather, safety and comfort.

Some attitudes are stronger than others, in terms of the extent to which they endure (persistence), their resilience to change (resistance) and the likelihood that they will result in behaviour. A major field of study involves identifying the factors which affect the strength of an attitude. One useful theory is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), created by Petty and Cacioppo in 1986. The ELM describes two ways in which we form attitudes. The first is the central processing route, whereby we are motivated and interested, and carefully weigh up the information which shapes our attitudes. Alternatively, we can use the peripheral processing route, whereby more superficial aspects of a message will shape our attitude. The extent to which we are likely to rely on each route is dependent on a number of things, including the degree of interest we have in the topic, and the relevance it has to us. For instance, when evaluating a green cleaning product, a passionate environmentalist may undertake their own analysis of its merits, rather than relying on the claims of the advertiser. A less engaged person, however, is more likely to be swayed by the claims of a celebrity endorser for example. Both may form the same attitude towards the product, but through quite different paths of attitude formation.

Evidence suggests that attitudes adopted via the central route are more likely to endure than those arrived at via the peripheral route. Because of the investment we make in coming to a careful decision, we are more likely to feel on solid ground, and will be reluctant to change our minds. When promoting sustainability, creating resilient attitudes is important, because the aim is to change behaviour – not just attitudes. In sustainability in particular, there is no shortage of excuses and opportunities to deviate from the path of “doing the right thing”, and therefore a strong commitment to persevering is often required. If people have made a mild commitment in response to a gimmick or emotive persuasion, it is easy for them to back down when it comes to following through with behaviour. If, however, they have come to a clear and considered conclusion about the best course of action, they are more likely to resist distractions and setbacks to follow through. The stronger and more resistant attitude they have formed will often prevail.

The difficulty, of course, lies in the fact that people increasingly feel overwhelmed by information, especially relating to climate change. We are also predisposed to take “cognitive shortcuts” when making up our minds about an issue, as we don’t have the capacity to analyse everything. The key to convincing someone that it is worth investing the time and effort required to shape a well-informed attitude appears to lie in the personal relevance of the topic. A number of factors make up perceived relevance, among them the degree to which it will “affect me personally”. This may provide an important clue as to the best way to communicate issues such as climate change. As long as people can distance themselves from the issues by seeing it as something that will happen to people in faraway countries, or to future generations, it will be difficult to instill durable pro-environmental attitudes that translate to behaviour. However, if our efforts to promote sustainability can be targeted and framed in such a way that the audience sees how it is directly relevant to something they value, the substance of the communication is more likely to be absorbed and acted upon."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Where’s the Dilemma?

"Many of the decisions we make regarding our environmental footprint could be considered “social dilemmas” A social dilemma involves a decision in which personal benefits must be weighed up against the collective benefit.

The most famous illustration of this idea as it relates to the environment is the “Tragedy of the Commons”, described by Garrett Hardin in 1968. Hardin discussed the situation in which a farmer who grazes cattle on commonly shared land can benefit greatly through adding another cow to his herd. However, if every farmer did the same thing, then environmental degradation would be accelerated, thus reducing the overall viability of farming the land for all those concerned. This dilemma can be seen playing out with a number of ecological decisions we face every day, such as transport choices, pollution and waste management. Do we “go out of our way” to choose a more environmentally friendly option, the benefits of which may be a drop in the ocean in a distant time and place?

When we are faced with such a social dilemma, there are a few things which influence the likelihood that we will act in the common interest rather than self-interest.

Firstly, the size of the affected group makes a difference. If we perceive that a selfish decision will affect our immediate group or community, then we are more likely to consider their interests. This would appear to support the idea of local control and accountability for resources, meaning that the impact of decisions people make is more observable and salient.

People will also act more in a pro-social way if they have strong ties to the community, and intend to be part of that community for some time. For instance, Mark Van Vugt, a leading researcher in the social dilemmas field, found that community identification was a significant factor in water conservation, in situations where water use had no financial implications. He makes the important point that “community identification processes will only kick in when there is a direct threat to the community and there is no personal incentive for cooperation”. This implies that building community cohesion is especially important in conditions where it is difficult or undesirable to regulate or incentivise the preferred behaviour. Van Vugt goes on to describe some of the characteristics of community cohesion, such as having positive community exchanges, trust, community pride, and a shared identity.

The other aspect to consider when viewing pro-environmental behaviour as a social dilemma is the extent to which personal gain is truly at odds with the collective good. Perhaps the idea of self-sacrifice has been overstated, and we have overlooked the positive benefits to oneself of choosing behaviours which take into account broader values than economics and convenience.

It is interesting to note that the literature in this area almost always considers a behaviour which is undertaken for the benefit of society as one which has lesser personal benefit. But, as previous issues of WakeUp Call have discussed, there are some very real benefits to individuals who choose to make decisions for the good of the collective. Not least of these is the intrinsic satisfaction gained from “doing the right thing”. A fuller acceptance of such benefits to the individual may go some way to changing the perception that what is good for me and what is good for the environment are mutually exclusive things. Instead of grappling with the question of “shall I look after myself by choosing the cheapest copy paper, or look after the planet by buying recycled?”, perhaps the situation needs to be reframed as “I’m going feel better and in integrity if I pay a bit more for the recycled paper, and the planet will benefit” – end of dilemma.

Of course economic incentives and regulatory efforts will always be important in order to encourage this state. Beyond the hardcore green fanatics, many people will be more easily encouraged to act on the personal benefits of an environmentally friendly option if the economic premium is within a certain pain threshold. But equally, we should not write off the potential for people to do the right thing for benefits beyond money, especially with a little assistance to see those benefits. With that in mind, here are a few ideas for tipping the balance towards behaviours which benefit the community, the planet, and the self.

· Take a localised, community approach to sustainability efforts, so that people can contribute and feel a sense of control over their destiny more directly
· Highlight the impact of action, or inaction, at a local level. People will be more compelled to act in the community interest if they can see the effect in their backyard
· Focus on building community cohesion as a vehicle to support pro-environmental behaviour (as well as lots of other positive outcomes)
· Articulate and promote the benefits to the self which result from acting in the best interests of the collective and the planet. Don’t always assume a playoff between self-interest and community interest
The closer we perceive the alignment between our self-interest and the interests of the community and the planet, the closer we will be to transitioning to a sustainable society."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability: Keeping Promises: Do Pledges Work?

"A popular component of many behaviour change efforts involves asking a person to make a commitment, or “pledge”, to undertake the desired behaviour. This typically involves getting them to sign their name to a promise to save water/energy/emissions. The common perception is that this will make them more accountable, and thus more likely to follow through on the requested behaviours. This months article asks the question as to whether the commitment approach actually works, and if so, how and why?

There is a certain amount of evidence across a variety of settings to suggest that gaining a commitment does indeed have an effect on behaviour. For example, strong support has been found for the effectiveness of “promise cards” to encourage people to wear seatbelts, discussed in a 1991 review by Geller and Lehman. In a series of studies, drivers were asked to sign a written statement of commitment to use seatbelts for a period of time (1-2 months). Subsequently, the researchers found that “In every case, a significant number of promise-card signers increased their use of safety belts”. More importantly, the effects of this intervention were found to be more effective in influencing lasting change than similar approaches which used incentives to entice people to wear seat belts.

In the environmental field, the results are similarly compelling. A couple of studies have shown the effect of commitment on recycling behaviour. Pardini and Katzev conducted a simple study where groups of households were either a) given an information leaflet about recycling, b) asked to make a verbal pledge to recycle, or c) asked to make a written pledge. Both groups which made the pledge showed higher recycling behaviours, with the written pledge resulting in the strongest, most enduring behaviour change.

As with all behaviour change efforts, it is important to consider if the intervention is likely to make a difference long-term, rather than just for the duration of the intervention. A 1990 study in a retirement home found that residents asked to sign a 4-week group commitment increased their recycling by 47%. When the researchers checked in after another 4 weeks, this increase had been maintained. The same study also looked at recycling behaviour of a group of students and found that both individual and group pledges worked to change behaviour, but only those students who signed individual pledges maintained the change over a follow-up period. This study echoed the seatbelt finding mentioned above, that signing a commitment is a more powerful facilitator of long-term change than providing incentives.

So it appears that gaining a commitment from people is a worthwhile, and fairly cost-effective, step in increasing the likelihood that behaviour change efforts will be effective. It is worth considering why commitments work. The theory of “Personal Norm Activation” suggests that, once we have committed to a course of action, we have cemented it as a personal norm, or something that we see as a moral standard in ourselves. Any action which is at odds with that commitment therefore triggers a personal norm, providing a motivation to act.

Similarly, the theory of Cognitive Dissonance, which has been discussed at length in previous issues of Wake-Up Call, goes some way to explaining the effectiveness of commitments. When we perceive a misalignment between our actions and our beliefs or values, then we experience discomfort and/or confusion. Thus, we work hard to maintain “cognitive consistency”. Making a commitment serves to create a belief that we are on board with the behaviour being proposed, so we do our best to ensure that our actions match this belief we have about ourselves.

This process does, however, rely on us being self-aware - of our commitments, our behaviour, and any misalignment between them. If we are not conscious of our behaviour in relation to our beliefs, then dissonance is unlikely to occur, thus removing the motivating factor. This is one reason why highly habitual behaviour (which tends to occur at an unconscious, “auto-pilot” level) is more resistant to the effects of commitments. This phenomenon is discussed at length by Matthies and colleagues, who states that “when car use habits are strong, the whole process of norm activation and evaluation is blocked, and situational cues will lead directly to the habitualised choice of travel mode, without moral or other motives being considered”. As a result, it is suggested that some form of habit disruption is combined with the commitment, as demonstrated by the Matthies team. (Habits are also discussed in a previous Wake-Up Call).

Reviewing the evidence for the inclusion of commitments or pledges as part of a behaviour change interventions, a few recommendations can be made
· Public commitments appear to work better than private ones
· Try to get written, specific commitments, rather than vague verbal ones
· A combination of individual and group pledges is ideal if possible, so that people can hold each other accountable, while also taking personal responsibility
· Ensure that people are aware, conscious and reminded of their commitment and their behaviour

Finally, as always, this approach is best used in combination with other tactics, including a thorough consideration (and removal where possible) of real and perceived barriers to the desired behaviour."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Discussion Question

Do you think religion can help save the planet?

If you would like to know what others think, see the podcast below.

Four guests, including ARRCC's Miriam Pepper, appeared on John Cleary's Sunday Night program on 29th March.

Introduction to the program

"Last night lights went out around the globe, as we the people sent a message to politicians: the earth is in trouble, please fix it. And, indeed, politicians seem to applaud the gesture, but the reality is rather different; a yawning gap between symbol and substance.

Linking symbol with substance is supposed to be what religion is all about, so this week we ask the churches, can religion help save the planet?

All four guests say that the 'gesture' is worth making and gives expression to widespread longing for new visioning about how we may live together on planet earth. They agree that this small action is a step to greater action; that these small gestures keep people going."

Guests: Rev Alistair Macrae, Rev Steven Eames, Dr Miriam Pepper, Ian Packer

Click here for a link to the full podcast of the program or visit

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Does Knowledge Lead to Action?

"Much effort is made to educate people about green issues, and to provide them with the necessary information to take positive action to support the environment. It makes sense that, if people are not acting in a way which is beneficial to the environment, we need to reach them with more information and impress upon them the importance of playing their part. But does this work? If we are more knowledgeable about the issues, does that make us more likely to change? The answer to this question is of critical importance those program developers and policy-makers whose job it is to decide where the funding and effort goes for developing more environmentally sustainable communities.

The answer is not straightforward. There is evidence to suggest that environmental knowledge is one of the key determinants of whether or not we will act with the earths interests at heart. A 2007 review of 57 separate studies of pro-environmental behaviour found that “problem awareness” was one of a number of strong determinants of whether or not people took green actions, albeit an indirect one (more on that later). Likewise, an in-depth report by the University of Surrey (Motivating Sustainable Consumption) noted that “low awareness, inadequacy of information and lack of knowledge are cited over and again as obstacles to the uptake of recycling schemes, composting, ethical purchasing and so on” - supporting the idea that educating and informing people plays an important role in stimulating sustainable behaviour. One example is a recent investigation of Australian attitudes to climate change by Net Balance, which reported that “more than half of respondents are discouraged from further action in their daily life because they feel there is not enough information about which companies and products are better when it comes to global warming”. The latter studies in particular indicate that people report a lack of information to be the main barrier to action, although it is possible that this is merely offered as an excuse for inaction.

Is there any evidence to suggest that people are more likely to act once armed with the necessary information? Most researchers who have studied this area have concluded that the answer is “no”. Paul Stern, a leading researcher in this field, remarks in a 2005 review (downloadable pdf here) that “educating people, in the narrow sense of telling them which behaviors are environmentally beneficial, typically has little or no effect in the short term”. For instance, a study into attempts to promote water efficiency by Geller, Erickson & Buttram found that intensive education made no difference to water saved, and that the only intervention which worked was to install a lowflow showerhead – in other words, there was no behavioural change as a result of the education.

The inconclusive nature of the evidence with regard to the importance of environmental knowledge has led to more in-depth investigation as to the ­­type of information which impacts on behaviour. Obviously we need a basic level of information before we can take actions which are environmentally beneficial. For instance, we need to know what type of materials can be recycled, and what day the recycling bins should be put on the curb. This “concrete knowledge” is a more important predictor of green behaviour than more “abstract knowledge”, such as knowledge about greenhouse gas and carbon issues. Stern notes that “broader environmental education about how climate or ecosystems function may change behavior—public-sphere behavior, most likely—but this is a long-term process that has not been the subject of careful research”.

The other role which education undoubtedly plays is that of a trigger for us to take responsibility for our actions. The review of 57 studies mentioned above found that “problem awareness” does not in itself lead to behaviour directly. Rather, it acts as an important precursor to activate our sense of moral responsibility to act. Once we become aware of a problem, we are in a better position to take responsibility to fix it, although this responsibility is not a given. This finding underlines the importance of taking a multidimensional approach to behaviour change, one which combines education with other interventions to influence decisions and stimulate action.

So, in summary, the dissemination of information plays a crucial part in behaviour change for environmental sustainability by performing two roles. Firstly, it raises awareness of problems so that we can choose to take responsibility to act, and secondly, it provides us with the “how-to” education we need in order to guide our behaviour. However, when such information is not supported by additional behaviour change tactics, we are unlikely to see real change, and the resources invested are likely to be largely wasted."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Monday, April 5, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Don’t Give Up

"If an animal feels a sense of failure every time it tries to help itself, pretty soon it gives up, even when presented with future opportunities to progress. This is the conclusion from the studies which gave rise to the term “learned helplessness”. In these studies, dogs were given mild electric shocks (back in the 60’s, rules around ethical treatment of animals were more liberal!), with no chance to escape them. When they were later given the opportunity to escape the shocks by jumping over a low fence, most had become so conditioned to be helpless that they stayed put.
It is common to hear people say “what’s the use, the problem is too big for any of us to solve”, in response to big environmental issues such as climate change. Is this an example of learned helplessness developing in society in response to environmental challenges? Looking at some of the key indicators of learned helplessness may help us recognise if this is the case, and how we might support people and groups who have developed it.
According to Stipek, learned helplessness is "not trying as a consequence of a belief that rewards are not contingent upon one's behaviour". It is based on 3 key beliefs
1. Internal blaming - "It's my fault"
2. Global distortion - "It will affect everything I do"
3. Stability generalization - "It will last forever"
If we were to view these beliefs in relation to climate change, it is easy to see how they would be developed in a sizeable percentage of the population.
“It’s my fault” is a natural consequence of being told that everything we do releases greenhouse gas, and that our very existence is destroying the planet – pretty hard to argue with that one.
“It will affect everything I do” is also being increasingly emphasised in reports about climate change. Add peak oil, resource depletion and drought, and it is easy to make the leap that life as we know it is in serious peril.
Finally, the idea that “it will last forever” is virtually unquestionable. A consistent theme of every dire prediction about the future of the planet is that the changes we are witnessing are irreversible.
So it is a fairly safe bet that the conditions for learned helplessness do exist with regard to climate change, and probably environmental issues as a whole. The likely effects of this are varied. Although there is some evidence to suggest that worrying about climate change is causing some people to become depressed, this is at the more serious end of the range of possible outcomes of learned helplessness. It is more likely that the condition will impact on the way in which people behave in relation to the environment – they will give up trying to change.
There is plenty of evidence that inaction with relation to environmental issues is based on the sense that we have no control, in other words, that we are helpless. A study by Allen and Ferrand was one of a number which showed a strong relationship between the sense of control we feel, and our actions with relation to the environment.
The feeling of having no control is one of the major reasons why communicating the dire consequences of climate change needs to be considered carefully. People like to feel in control of their lives, and if they feel overwhelmed by the information they are receiving, they are likely to feel helpless and switch off. A leading researcher in this area, Stephen Kaplan, comments that “many who appear uninterested in environmental issues, may distance themselves to avoid pain, not because environmental issues are of no concern to them”.
Changing our routines and comfortable habits often requires considerable personal resources. Habits, for instance, develop to reduce the need for us to make new decisions each time we encounter a situation, thus freeing up mental resources for other things. If we are feeling overwhelmed and helpless by the challenges we face, we are less likely to feel strong enough to go outside our comfort zone and try a new behaviour which we may perceive as untested or less convenient.
In clinical settings, learned helplessness is often addressed through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which helps to identify and challenge beliefs which are holding negative emotions in place. Although the context in which most environmental behaviour change advocates operate is vastly different, it is useful to be aware of the potential for learned helplessness, and to adapt our approach to minimise it’s likelihood of developing.
1. In communications, remember to include positive steps which people can take to address the problems. Not just as a token afterthought, but as the main call to action.
2. Provide tangible support for people to take action. Rather than just saying “this is what you should do”, an approach which guides and supports people to make change is more likely to succeed.
3. Along with individual actions, provide examples of the way in which collective actions can address the big environmental challenges, to foster a sense of hope that the problems are surmountable.
4. Provide reinforcement for changes which have been made, in order to build on people’s sense of power and control over their lives.
For a community to be engaged and empowered to change, people need to feel, at an individual level, that they have some power to influence the future – otherwise they may just roll over and accept the pain."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - Who’s Green?

"Some people claim that green issues are the concern primarily of rich, educated, left-leaning liberals – the only ones who can afford the luxury of such considerations. But do these claims stand up to scrutiny? This months article takes a look at the research into some of the demographic characteristics of those who demonstrate concern about the environment.

The results for age have been mixed over the years, but recent studies seem to reveal that young people are less likely then their elders to engage in pro-environmental behaviours. This trend has been observed in many countries, including China, Australia and the United Kingdom. One explanation may be that young people are more focused on getting ahead and establishing themselves financially, and do not have the “luxury” of worrying about less immediate concerns.

One question likely to result in dinner-table discussions is that of whether men or women more likely to do their bit for the environment? The research is mixed, but the most common finding is that women express greater care and concern for environmental issues than men. In terms of behaviour, they are more likely to undertake everyday activities which benefit the environment, such as recycling and making green purchasing decisions. This has usually been put down to the effects of socialisation and the established gender role of women as more caring and nurturing. Men do, however, shine when it comes to activism and involvement in environmental issues outside the home. They are also more likely to read more about environmental issues.

An interesting piece of research by Paul Stern and colleagues attempted to explain this gender difference and identified a pattern whereby women had stronger beliefs that environmental issues were a threat to welfare, security and health, which explained their propensity to act in an environmentally friendly way. Where those beliefs did not exist, the gender difference was absent. The authors conclude that “when women are more active on environmental issues, it is because of an increased likelihood to make connections between environmental conditions and their values, rather than because they have different values structures than men”. This finding suggests that making it easier for people to make the link between green issues and their own values is essential for sustainability promoters.

There is also evidence to suggest that parents are more involved in environmental issues than those without children. A major study in New South Wales, Australia, found that those with children were not only more concerned about the environment, but were also more likely to undertake green behaviours. They were, however, less likely to nominate action on the environment as a priority for the state government.

In terms of income level, there does not appear to be a strong relationship between income and concern for environmental issues. However, some interesting findings have emerged in studies comparing the attitudes toward sustainability between countries with differing levels of wealth. Diekmann and Franzen found that people in poor countries have similar levels of concern toward the environment as those in wealthy countries. However, people in the wealthy countries were more likely to rank environmental protection as a high priority for action. This suggests that, while concerns are shared, wealthy nations are in a better position to do something about it, and people are more willing to see resources allocated to dealing with the issues.

The findings regarding wealth, and to some extent age, suggest that Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” has some relevance to the study of environmental attitudes and action. Maslow’s theory suggests that people need to meet their lower order needs such as survival and security before they can focus on high order needs such as achievement and morality. It appears that environmental issues have been positioned as a higher order need, something which can be focused on once the necessities of life are taken care of. For people in poor nations, the priority may be getting food on the table. For younger people it may be fitting into the crowd, establishing an identity, or starting a career. One of the challenges for sustainability advocates is to “reposition” environmental issues as lower order needs on the Maslow hierarchy. While climate change is being touted as the “moral challenge of our time”, it may struggle to get traction. According to the theory, morality occurs in the self-actualisation stage, something which people going about their everyday business are unlikely to pay much attention to. But if sustainability is accepted as necessary for our survival, wellbeing and security, then it may start to capture the focus of a larger percentage of society and get the action it deserves and demands."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+