Top 10: green behaviour change resources

This is the first in a series of posts about some of the best resources we’ve come across on behaviour change and green living.

I’ve started with some of the reports and sites that are core to our understanding of behaviour change. But if these are old news, then hold on! We’ll have posts on more specific aspects of behaviour change soon, inlcuding sustainable communications, energy, water and waste.

  1. The House of Lords behaviour change inquiry is a veritable gold-mine of information on behaviour change. Its report is now written, and all the evidence submitted to the committee is also publicly available.  Highlights include: Prof. Elizabeth Shove, who gives a sociological perspective on green living, Prof Imran Rasul, with a useful summary of some key behavioural traits (p93), and Cardiff University’s understanding risk team’s response (p184)
  2. The Institute of Government’s MINDSPACE report. With its handy mnemonic for policymakers, this is a very digestible write up of behavioural economics and some of the ways it can be useful for public policy.
  3. The Climate Outreach and Information Network has published a great series on the psychology of behaviour change by Dr Adam Corner from Cardiff University (scroll down this page), as well as other useful resources on sustainable communication, climate denial and behaviour change.
  4. An old one but a good one: Motivating sustainable consumption by Professor Tim Jackson provides an excellent summary of behaviour change theory, including looking at habits, norms, and more social and structural way of understanding human behaviour. Jackson is the director of the RESOLVE centre at the university of Surrey, looking at values, lifestyles and the environment, which has produced a wealth of studies into many issues, including the ‘rebound effect’.
  5. The newly created Centre of Expertise on Influencing Behaviour in Defra has published a refreshed framework for sustainable lifestyles and has an impressive backlist of the extensive research it has commissioned on behaviour change, much of which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be available to download.
  6. The Scottish government also has some great research on low carbon behaviours, including this review of international examples.
  7. Long-time campaign strategist Chris Rose has been publishing free newsletters on campaigning and behaviour change since 2005, and you can read all of them online. He is at the forefront of promoting ‘values modes’ – a way of segmenting people according to their core values.
  8. Thinking more broadly about models of behaviour change, the report Nudge, Think or Shove: shifting values and attitudes towards sustainability explores the merits of three different approaches. Nudging (small, sometimes imperceptible prods) works for some specific shifts, ‘Think’ or ‘Steer’ (which are about conscious learning) is good for gaining public consent for bigger changes,  and ‘shoving’ through legislative or structural changes is often needed for nudges to work, it says.
  9. WWF and others published a report last year called ‘Common Cause: the case for working with our cultural values’. This argues that social marketing techniques which focus on changing one particular behaviour at a time will not produce sufficiently radical change, arguing we need to shift the values and ‘deep frames’ governing society.
  10. The Policy Studies Institute published a really interesting report in 2009 on real world consumer behaviour, looking at the factors that really influence whether we buy environmentally preferable goods or not.

And one for luck…Canadian Psychologist Doug McKenzie-Mohr, has recently updated his seminal book Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing, which is about how to promote specific sustainable behaviours in communities.

This is nothing like a conclusive list – there are so many other reports, resources and names that could have been included. So before we get onto specifics like saving energy, I’ll write another general behaviour change top 10. Who or what would you want to see in there?

8 comments

  • Nice summary. Can I be big headed and include my own guide “Fostering Sustainable Behaviour At Work”?
    http://www.terrainfirma.co.uk/pdfs/Fostering%20Green%20Behaviour.pdf

  • I find Jackson’s ‘double dividend’ to be a fairly useful way to frame the wellbeing benefits of more sustainable behaviours and consumption practices. Unfortunately people are resistant to others telling them what’s good for them though. But time and time again (as Andrew Simms has written recently in the guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/01/happiness-economic-growth) what motivates people in determining well-being is “family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness”. I think a good way forward may be to integrate these referents of meaning into behaviour change policies more visibly, after all if these things are what motivate people, we don’t need a deep shift in the ‘frames’ than govern society – all of those things will be better realised in a more sustainable economy. We just need to demonstrate that changing our behaviours and consumption patterns is actually more of a return to, not a departure from, the things that truly matter to us.

  • Martin Parkinson

    Pleased to see you’ve included Tim Jackson’s “Motivating sustainable consumption”. I recommend this as a starting point to anyone because it is basically an inter-disciplinary compendium.

  • Kristin Aldred Cheek

    Sylvia, one study that might be useful: http://www.apa.org/science/about/publications/climate-change.aspx (see especially chapter 2 on behavioral factors). The Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative is also helpful http://www.scorai.org/index.html

  • Hi Sylvia,

    I think this is a really interesting and useful summary, thanks! Perhaps you might consider swapping the Common Cause link in 9 for http://www.valuesandframes.org, which is the new site that contains the Common Cause Handbook, the original report and the sister report ‘Finding Frames’ which is focussed on using values in behaviour change for international development. The site also has lots of interesting related content. You might also want to include a link to WWF’s Strategies for Change theme, as they’ve got some other good reports in there.

    On general behaviour change, I’d recommend the following:
    – The Political Mind by George Lakoff
    – Joe Brewer’s sites http://www.cognitivepolicyworks.com and http://www.chaoticripple.com, and perhaps this post in particular http://www.cognitivepolicyworks.com/blog/2010/08/21/5-things-youll-need-to-know-to-change-human-behavior/
    – The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser
    – A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (this is perhaps a bit ‘leftfield’ compared to the resources you’ve already listed but I think it’s highly instructive and thought provoking, and potentially revolutionary! Essentially it makes the case that all of avoidably human suffering and human-caused crises (environmental, food, energy, financial etc) are driven by almost all of humanity existing in an ‘egoic trance’ which embodies extrinsic values such as power, financial wealth, self-image etc. I think it provides an interesting companion to less abstract texts focussing more squarely on values, their interrelation and behavioural consequences. Hope this is helpful and great job with the all the fantastic work and writing you’ve been producing!

    Laurie

  • Thanks very much for all your suggestions, they make very interesting reading.

    Laurie – Lakoff wrote an article for our pamphlet From hot air to happy endings (http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/hotair), and we’ve just recently cross-posted an article from http://www.valuesandframes.org on core values on this blog. Have a look!

    Sylvia

  • Thanks Sylvia – hadn’t got round to reading that but will make sure I do soon. Brilliant list of contributors!

    Laurie

  • Pingback: Top 11 Sunday reads | age of change

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