Wake-Up Call
August 2008
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Welcome to the August 2008 Wake-Up Call, Awakeís monthly newsletter for research and news about behaviour change for sustainability.

In this edition of Wake-up Call…

- Feature Article - Is Being Green a Sacrifice?
- Workshop Update - More Cultivating Sustainability Workshops coming soon
- 60 seconds with… Bronwyn Darlington, founder of Rise Up Productions
- Interesting Article of the Month - Human Nature and Environmentally Responsible Behavior
- Creating a Culture of Sustainability - Partner for Pilot Project needed
- Exercise of the Month - Accentuate the Positive


Workshop Update - More Cultivating Sustainability Workshops Coming Soon

The great response to the recent Cultivating Sustainability workshops in Melbourne, Wellington & Auckland, shows that sustainability advocates are hungry for practical tools and models to create behaviour change.  Here are just some of the comments from attendees

"A rich and well-paced workshop that provided many tools, tips and techniques to help create sustainable behaviour"

"The workshop provided me with some really useful tools to inject into our behaviour change programmes"

"Great workshop - good balance of theory with participatory exercises and discussions"

"A great selection of practical tools to help with behaviour change programme planning and development"

Planning is now underway for further workshops in the main centres of Australia, and possibly a further visit to New Zealand before the end of the year.  One of the priorities for this plan is to travel as efficiently as possible to reduce environmental impact*.  To this end planning would be greatly assisted if people could email expressions of interest in the workshop to timc@awake.com.au

The Cultivating Sustainability workshop
can also be run in-house, either in itís entirety or tailored to suit your needs. If your organisation or community group would like to discuss the possibility of an inhouse workshop, it would be great to hear from you so that it can be worked into the schedule.

*Traveling between cities to conduct workshops obviously has an environmental impact, so the plan is to reduce the amount of individual trips and travel as efficiently as possible.  I am also exploring the possibility of delivering workshops via webinar or video conference, although have yet to find a solution which is satisfactory for delivering a full day workshop which incorporates experiential tools.  One of the things attendees really love about these workshops is the ability to meet and share ideas with like-minded people.  While the search for the ideal solution continues, I hope the net impact of providing sustainability advocates with tools for behaviour change goes some way to justifying the travel involved.


60 Seconds with… Bronwyn Darlington, founder of Rise Up Productions

What first got you focused on sustainability?
I was speaking to workers on a mine site and I was asking them questions about green issues that I realised I could not even answer about the clothing we wear.

What is the sustainable choice you have recently made of which you are most proud?

Riding my bike to business meetings in high heels.

What is a less sustainable choice that you are not so proud of?

I have a boat and enjoy adrenalin sports like wake-boarding, go-karting- not very environmentally friendly!

Research Article of the Month - Human Nature and Environmentally Responsible Behavior
Human Nature and Environmentally Responsible Behavior
(Full article available for free online)
by Stephen Kaplan
Journal of Social Issues (2000) Volume 56 Issue 3, Pages 491 - 508

What is it about? 

In the words of the author, "this article constitutes a search for a people-oriented approach to encouraging environmentally responsible behavior".  He argues that appealing to altruism has contributed to helplessness and a sense that we have to reduce our quality of life to be green.

What did they find?

Kaplan advocates a Reasonable Person approach, which draws on the desire of people to develop their competence and solve problems.  Instead of calling for sacrifice, he argues that environmental educators should be encouraging participatory involvement by people, and presenting them with green choices for which there are clear benefits.

What can we take from this?

This article provides hope for those who are faced with the task of trying to convince people to do something that they do not want to do.  By exploring some core issues of human nature and motivation, Kaplan has provided some useful pointers for how we can accentuate the positive of sustainable choices and increase the chance that people will feel good, rather than helpless, about sustainability.

Creating a Culture of Sustainability - Partner for Pilot Project needed

Awake is currently seeking a group or organisation who wishes to be involved in a pilot program for creating behaviour and culture change.  The project would involve the following

1.        Gathering of baseline data about
                a.  the group's current attitudes and beliefs about sustainability
                b.  behaviours in relation to sustainability
                c.  outcomes, such as use of water, paper, energy etc
2.        One or more workshops, tailored to suit the groupís needs, focused on engaging,                 empowering and inspiring people around sustainability
3.        Follow-up measures to track the impact of the interventions

The purpose of the project is to assess the effectiveness of a specific psychology-based approach to creating lasting behaviour change within a group or organisation.    It would ideally suit a small-medium organisation, or a team/site within a larger organisation.   The format and approach is flexible, so please donít hesitate to contact me with suggestions.

If you are interested in being part of this project, or know somebody who is, please contact timc@awake.com.au


Exercise of the Month - Accentuate the positive
  1. List 3 things that you are struggling to change in order to lighten your ecological footprint. (eg. Driving to work)
  2. For each, note 3 benefits which you will gain by changing your behaviour. Try to consider ecological, emotional, financial, spiritual and community benefits.  (Eg. Save money, be more relaxed, lower my contribution to pollution, meet interesting people)

Often when we consider changing our behaviour, our attention is drawn to what we will be "giving up  if we change.  Just putting our attention on the benefits of a change, rather than the drawbacks, can inspire us.  And sometimes it also helps to consider the benefits on a number of levels, rather than those which are immediately obvious. 

The exercise of the month provides a tool to help you get engaged, inspired, aware and in action around sustainability.  Feel free to use it on your own, with a friend, or in your work.  If you do use it with others, please tell them where you got it!

About Awake
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations.  Visit www.awake.com.au for more info


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©Awake 2008
Feature Article - Is Being Green a Sacrifice?

What sacrifices to our lifestyle are we prepared to make for a more sustainable society?

Itís a question guaranteed to start a hotly contested debate.  Many believe that the only way we can transition to a society less dependent on natural resources and energy is to radically alter our lifestyle - and that this will necessarily involve giving up some of the conveniences and luxuries we now enjoy, especially in the developed world.

Those at the other side of the debate insist we must develop ways to reduce our impact on the planet while not compromising our "standard of living".  This school of thought claims that promoting a major change in lifestyle would be asking the impossible and risk alienating the majority of the population to the point where they would rather bury their heads in the sand .  Far better, they say, to place our trust in technology and new innovations to reduce the environmental impact of our business-as-usual activities. 

Just what,  if anything, will we need to give up in order to live more sustainably?  The most common perception seems to be that we will need to give up some of the things that are at the centre of our modern lifestyles, such as convenience, cheap imported goods and frequent travel.  Some also believe that the cost of living will rise, as the price of energy, for instance, rises to incorporate carbon pricing.   To many, this is indeed a big ask, and we are going to have a present a pretty compelling case to convince people to part with these things we cherish so much.  Most of us are well aware of what we are trying to avoid by going green - the future vision of climate and ecological hell has been depicted quite vividly in recent years. 

Perhaps the secret lies in presenting a greener lifestyle not so much in terms of what we will be giving up, but what we will be gaining.  Kaplan (see Article of the Month below)
provides a compelling case for avoiding the appeal to a noble sacrifice in order to create a more sustainable society.  He argues that, far from being altruistic, pro-environmental behaviours do have a benefit to all of us and those benefits need to be articulated and fostered.  He claims that human beings are innate self-improvers, and are reluctant to engage with something solely for the benefit of others.

Further evidence for the motivational importance of self-interest is provided by
Omoto & Snyder who looked at the motives of those who volunteer for social causes, and found that those who did so for reasons of self-interest (such as esteem and personal development) were more likely to stick with it for longer, compared to those who had purely altruistic motives.  In short, if we are going to do a socially responsible thing, it helps if we can see that there is something in it for us.  

What could be "in it for us  to adopt a greener lifestyle?  The self-interest motive explored by authors such as De Young is that of "intrinsic satisfaction".  In a 2000 paper  De Young noted that "certain patterns of behaviour are worth engaging in because of the personal, internal contentment that engaging in these behaviours provides.  However, these behaviours often focus on issues outside the immediate domain of the self (eg. Protecting the environment, enhancing community).  The ultimate effect may be environmentally beneficial, but the proximate mechanism is self-interest, here in the form of intrinsic satisfaction.   In simple terms, this means that we feel good when we do something good for society, and this good feeling is a powerful motive for doing it.   

Values are another way of looking at the intrinsic satisfaction of "doing the right thing".   As previous articles in Wake-Up Call have outlined,  people often find that when they act in an sustainable way, they feel that they are living more in alignment with their core values.    A review of in-depth interviews with people about their green behaviour led Maiteny to "hypothesise that primary motives, such as altruistic and social values, are often covered up by the more immediate, selective motives, which evolve around oneís own needs (e.g. being comfortable, saving money and time)".  He goes on to claim that "when pro-environmental is not framed and experienced as also contributing to personal well-being, it is less likely to endure in the long term."

Far from being a sacrifice, perhaps the most powerful reinforcement for opting for a greener lifestyle is a sense of alignment and integrity.  We do not need a calculator to tell us when we have made a choice for the future - we can feel it. 

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations.  Visit www.awake.com.au for more info