Welcome to the June 2009 Wake-Up Call, Awake’s monthly newsletter for research and news about behaviour change for sustainability.


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In this edition of Wake-up Call…


·          Feature Article – Stages of Change

·          Upcoming Workshops – Cultivating Sustainability in New Zealand, August 2009

·          Interesting Article of the Month – Why Is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature

·          60 seconds with… Micah from The Greengrocer

·          Exercise of the Month – Examining Change


Feature Article – Stages of Change


Although it would be fantastic if behaviour change happened in an instant, it is generally accepted that there are a number of stages which people must go through in order to change.  Those working to promote the uptake of environmentally friendly behaviours can benefit from understanding these stages, and using this knowledge to tailor their efforts.


A useful model of behaviour change called the Transtheoretical Model was developed by James Prochaska, primarily through investigations into people who had successfully changed their health-related behaviours.  The model not only describes the steps which we go through during the change process, but also provides tips on supporting ourselves to progress through the steps.  


The Prochaska model has been adapted by Bob Doppelt from the Climate Leadership Initiative, and applied to behaviour change for environmental sustainability, in order to provide sustainability advocates with tips on supporting people to adopt green behaviours.  The “5-D Model” developed by Doppelt mirrors each of Prochaska’s stages – below is an overview of Prochaska’s steps, with Doppelt’s adaptation in brackets. 


1.       Pre-contemplation (Disinterest).  This is where we have not even started to think about changing, either through lack of awareness or denial.  In order for  someone in the Pre-contemplation stage to consider changing, something needs to both capture their interest, and cause them to see a need for change.  This means that, as well as providing information, some kind of “tension for change” needs to be created.  A basic principle of behaviour change is that people need to feel a disconnection between their current state and a desired state.  Information alone will not necessarily create such an awareness, which is why an understanding of such concepts as Cognitive Dissonance (discussed in a previous issue of Wake-Up Call) is useful. 

2.       Contemplation (Deliberation).  At this stage, people begin to think about changing.  Primarily this involves weighing up the benefits versus costs of change, as well as assessing whether one has the capability of changing.  At this point of the change process, people can be supported through reinforcement of their ability, plus information which highlights the benefits of change.  Providing low risk opportunities to trial change are another way to assist people in the Contemplation stage, as it can tip the balance in favour of attempting the change.

3.       Preparation (Design):  The Preparation stage is self-explanatory, involving planning for the change we are about to make.  At this point, we are working out the best way to change, gathering the tools and skills we need, and ensuring that our change will be successful.  At this point, people can be supported by providing them with the assistance and resources they need, and encouraging them to maintain motivation and keep moving.  For example, for a person considering using public transport to get to work, providing them with route information and timetables would assist progression through this stage.    Doppelt also advocates the importance of a public commitment at this stage, as a way of keeping people on track. 

4.       Action (Doing):  This is where people begin the act of changing.  It is important to note that the model does not consider this to be the “change” stage on it’s own, but merely one of the 5 stages of change.  People can be supported at this stage by continued reinforcement, and,  where possible, measures to ensure that their change experience is positive, especially if it is a “trial period”.  Gym’s do this well, often providing extra personalised service and support to people in the early stages of their membership.  People are susceptible to relapse in this stage of the change process, as habits are yet to be formed.  Habit formation can be supported by providing stability and predictability in the environment in which the behaviour is being undertaken (see Wake-Up Call July 2008)

5.       Maintenance (Defence): At this stage of the change process, people are engaged in the new behaviour regularly and it has often become a habit.  At this point, the chances of relapse are lower, although the change should not be taken for granted as people’s subjective view of pro’s and con’s can change, especially in response to personal upheaval.  Continued efforts to improve the reliability and stability of the environmental conditions in which the behaviour is being performed (eg. Providing a reliable train service, or recycling service) are the best way to support people at this stage.

The value of Prochaska’s model lies in the ability to diagnose where people are in the change process, and therefore choose how to support them.  For instance, if somebody says “I am planning to change in the next few months or so”, they are probably in the Contemplation stage.  They have accepted responsibility, but do not yet have a clear plan of action.  So the best intervention would be to provide them with a compelling case to commit to change, outlining the benefits of changing.

Even when faced with a life-threatening situation, research shows that people are extraordinarily stubborn when it comes to changing behaviour.  By developing our understanding of the processes by which change takes place, we stand a better chance of supporting the kind of adjustments to our behaviour which are necessary to deal with the environmental challenges we face in the present and future.



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


Upcoming Workshops – Cultivating Sustainability in New Zealand, August 2009


Planning is underway for Cultivating Sustainability workshops in several New Zealand locations in August. 

Dates and locations are as follows


·          Christchurch, Mon August 17th

·          Wellington, Wed August 19th   

·          Napier, Fri August 21st

·          Hamilton, Mon August 24th

·          Auckland, Tue August 25th


These are public workshops with all welcome to attend.  


Cost:       For-profits $250pp

               Not-for-profit/Government $200pp

               Individuals/Community Groups $120pp



More information and online registration, can be found at  www.awake.com.au/cultivating.html


To enquire about any of the workshops above, email info@awake.com.au


Cultivating Sustainability is a 1-day workshop which provides sustainability advocates with insights, models and practical tools to support their behaviour change efforts.  Anybody who has taken on the challenge of influencing others to live and work more sustainably will find this workshop a valuable addition to their skills.



For more information about the Cultivating Sustainability workshop, see www.awake.com.au/cultivating.html


Interesting Article of the Month   Why Is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature



Why Is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature

By F. Stephan Mayer, Cynthia McPherson Frantz, Emma Bruehlman-Senecal, and Kyffin Dolliver

Environment and Behavior, Published Online September 2008


What is it about? 

This series of studies looked the the psychological benefits of being connected to nature and having experiences in the natural world.  A number of experiments were carried out, where participants took a walk in nature, or viewed videos of natural settings, with the effects on their wellbeing examined.


What did they find?

The researchers found that exposure to nature had a number of benefits such as positive emotions, connectedness to nature and attentional capacity (ability to work on a problem and tie up loose ends).  Furthermore, even a “virtual experience” fof nature had a similar effect, albeit not as strong.


What can we take from this?

This study provides yet another reason to not only preserve the natural environment, but to encourage and facilitate a connection between people and nature.  Other research has found that people who have first-hand connection to nature are more likely to take actions which preserve the environment.  As long as we stay separate and disconnected from nature, it makes it easier to act in ways which fail to acknowledge the consequences for the environment, a state which increasingly appears to support our current unsustainable way of life.



60 Seconds with….. Micah from The Greengrocer


What first got you focused on sustainability?


Food – I grew up conscious of good food, something which took me towards working in the field of organics and natural food.


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


Selling and promoting organic food and natural farming methods.


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


When I neglect to re-use water from the house to spread on the garden – I don’t have a grey water system, so that is something I like to do, but I don’t always do it.


Exercise of the Month – Examining Change

Following on from the feature article above, this exercise is an opportunity to examine our own behaviour change efforts.  If you can, try to use examples of behaviour changes related to environmental sustainability, otherwise changes from other areas of your life will work too.


1.       Choose one behaviour change which you have deliberately made in recent years

2.       Think about the steps you took through the behaviour change process

a)      Moving from Pre-Contemplation to Contemplation – what caused you to start thinking that change would be a good idea?

b)      Moving from Contemplation to Preparation – what factors did you consider when deciding whether to give it a go?

c)       Moving from Preparation to Action – what tools, resources and information did you need to assemble in order to get you into action?

d)      Moving from Action to Maintenance – what stops you from going back to your old behaviour?  Are there any routines or other mechanisms you have established to support your new behaviour?

3.       Once you have examined a behaviour change you have successfully made, now try one which didn’t work so well, or one you have yet to make.

a)      Which stage(s) above did you move through?

b)      Where did your efforts stall?

c)       What did/do you need in order to get you to the next stage?

d)      If you were to make the change now, what could you do to support yourself to change?


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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