Welcome to the June 2010 Wake-Up Call, Awake’s monthly newsletter for research and news about behaviour change for sustainability.


To view this newsletter as a webpage, click here


In this edition of Wake-up Call…


·         Feature Article – Setting Goals

·         Upcoming Workshops – Cultivating Sustainability in Australia and New Zealand

·         Upcoming Workshop - Behaviour Change Techniques to Encourage Green Purchasing

·         Workshop Report- Cultivating Sustainability in Western Australia

·         60 seconds with… Louise Duxbury from the Centre for Sustainable Living in Denmark WA

·         Interesting Article of the Month – Green Buildings Are Better For Workers

·         Exercise of the Month – Set Some Goals


Feature Article – Setting Goals


Making a commitment to live a more environmentally friendly life lends itself to goal setting. There are plenty of things we can change which are measurable, such as water and energy use, carbon footprint, even the amount of rubbish we put in our bin. If we can measure it, then we can set a goal for changing it. But why do we set goals? Do they make it easier for us to act? This month’s article looks at the research relating to goal setting, whether or not it helps us to change our behaviour, and how to best do it.

A review of the evidence suggests that setting goals is a powerful tool for supporting change in a variety of fields. The gurus of “goal-setting theory” are Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, who summarise decades of work in “Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. A 35-year odyssey”. The authors have documented scores of studies into the effectiveness of setting goals, and conclude that “goal-setting theory is among the most valid and practical theories of employee motivation in organizational psychology”.

Goals work because they provide us with a clear, fixed direction to focus our efforts, and allow us to start to think about ways to complete tasks. The discrepancy between our current and desired state which a goal creates is also a powerful motivator, as people are naturally disposed to seek consistency between these two states.

Goal-setting has been used successfully in behaviour change efforts for sustainability in a variety of settings. One good example is the Living Smart program, developed in Western Australia, which incorporates goal-setting in its approach to change household behaviour. An comprehensive review of the approach by Lucy Sheehy for a PhD thesis revealed that “The Living Smart group who participated in the goal setting process was the only group to change their behaviour” (p.154).

There are a number of factors which make a goal more effective. Firstly, challenging goals lead to a greater increase in performance than easy ones. By creating a stretch, presumably we are more focused and motivated. A 1978 study found that people who were set a goal of reducing their electricity use by 20% were much more likely to reach their goal than those who were set a 2% target.

Goal specificity is also important. Locke and Latham describe research which shows that clearly defining a goal leads to much high performance than simply asking people to “do their best”. The latter approach provides no external reference point, and does not set a clear expectation of performance.

People also benefit from feedback on how they are going towards their goal. Feedback is discussed in more depth in the October 2009 edition of Wake-Up Call.

Other factors which influence the extent to which a goal will result in performance include importance and efficacy. If a goal is important to someone, they are more likely to pursue it. For this reason, it can be helpful for people to have a role in setting the goal. Evidence shows that where people are involved in the goal-setting, they are more likely to be successful than if they are just told what they are to achieve.

Self-efficacy refers to the degree to which people feel confident and able to achieve a goal. Understandably, goal attainment is more likely if people have a strong level of efficacy, something which can be supported by providing them with the resources, information and encouragement to do it.

To summarise, a few good rules of thumb for assisting people to set goals include the following:

·         Involve them in setting the goal

·         Encourage them to set a fairly challenging goal, but not so difficult that it will seem impossible

·         Be specific and ensure the goal is able to be measured

·         Ensure you have a plan for supporting them to meet the goal, through provision of information, resources or encouragement

·         Try to create a mechanism for feedback and monitoring so that people can see how they are going



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 Australia and New Zealand


Dates for Australian workshops over the next few months are as follows.


Sydney, June 29

Melbourne, July 6

Hobart, July 13

Brisbane, August 24


Dates for NZ workshops are as follows.


Christchurch, August 2

Nelson, August 3

Wellington, August 5

Auckland, August 11


Note: Some space has been left in the schedule for groups requesting an in-house workshop, in or near any of the locations above, which is a great option if you have over 10 people who would benefit from the workshop. This can take the form of a full-day Cultivating Sustainability workshop, or a workshop customised to meet the needs of your group.

If you are part of an organisation, green team, or community network that would benefit from an in-house workshop, contact timc@awake.com.au  to discuss.  



More information, including online registration details, is available at www.awake.com.au/cultivating.html


About the Workshop

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.

Cost:    For-profits $250pp

           Not-for-profit/Government $200pp

           Individuals/Community Groups $120pp


Feedback from attendees of recent Cultivating Sustainability workshops included…


“Great framework for encouraging behavioural change within organisations”

“Provided me with tools and insights to challenge me to review how I am approaching my sustainability project”

”This workshop has given me good insight into the motivating factors in people’s behaviour and ways to get lasting change”

“I found the workshop useful to help me learn practical and positive/inspirational ways to change peoples attitudes and behaviours towards sustainability”


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


Upcoming Workshop - Behaviour Change Techniques to Encourage Green Purchasing


Awake will be partnering with ECO-Buy to present a half-day workshop on behaviour change techniques to encourage green purchasing.

By attending this workshop you will gain valuable insights and skills for

   Understanding the psychological drivers of green behaviour

   Recognising what people need in order to engage in behaviour change

   Identifying the biggest barriers to making green factors a priority

   Changing old habits and creating new ones

   How to influence people and gain their buy-in

   How to appeal to values and use them to engage people in change

This workshop will benefit anybody who is involved with promoting green purchasing through their organisation, and trying to embed a culture of sustainable purchasing. 


Date:  Wednesday, August 18th, 2010.  8.30am - 12.30pm
Location:  60L Green Building, 60 Leicester St, Carlton, Melbourne. 
Registrations: Please go to the ECO-Buy website to register for the workshop or call ECO-Buy on 9349 0400 for further details. 


Workshop Report- Cultivating Sustainability in Western Australia


My recent tour of WA started in Denmark, where a diverse and passionate group of people from the region gathered to share their experiences of promoting sustainability. The workshop was held at the Centre for Sustainable Living which is an outstanding asset to the local community and provides welcoming and comfortable accommodation and workshop facilities. I fully recommend anyone travelling to that part of the world to check it out.

Next stop was Perth, where a full house demonstrated just how committed and knowledgeable Western Australia is when it comes to sustainability issues. 


Some of the comments from those attending were


“Tim took us through an excellent set of models for better understanding why people may or may not adopt sustainable behaviours”

“The strategies and models covered will help me to run a better River Guardians program, to help people become more river friendly in their day to day lives”

“Practical approaches that can be easily adopted in community education programs that focus on sustainability”

“Thanks Tim – I have come away with a heap of ideas & confidence to tackle my next project”


Thanks to all those who attended, participated and provided valuable feedback. Keep posted for another Perth workshop before the end of the year.


60 Seconds with….. Louise Duxbury, Manager of Centre for Sustainable Living Denmark WA


What first got you focused on sustainability?

I was involved in the early 80s resisting the proposal for a nuclear power station in Western Australia.  It made me interested in where our energy came from, the options for delivering energy and why this option was being promoting.  It was clear to me that the decision making had nothing to do with sustainability!!  I went back to University to do an honours on Energy Policy to work out what the barriers were for householders to embrace solar hot water services and energy conservation.  I was also involved with the Franklin River Tasmanian blockade which successfully stopped the damming of a river which is now world heritage area.  This provided an early training in behaviour change management for sustainability and showed that positive change is possible.  I learnt that as a society we travel particular paths in our private and collective lives based on history and habit and to change from the grooves we have made needs deliberate attention to reviewing our values, visioning different paths forward, creating a awareness of the need for change and then ensuring people have the capacity to change, at the same time we need to deal with the human psychology of change.  I helped establish several groups include Green Skills Inc where I have worked for 20 years and more recently the Centre for Sustainable Living managed by Green Skills.


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

Invested in netting my whole fruit orchard and am picking hundreds of fresh persimmons that the birds would have enjoyed!


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

I am planning a journey back to Nepal – will be visiting a Nepalese Permaculture organisation and providing them with fundraised support while there.


Interesting Article of the Month –  Green Buildings Are Better For Workers



Green Buildings and Productivity

By Norm G. Miller, Dave Pogue, Quiana D. Gough, and Susan M. Davis

Journal of Sustainable Real Estate

Volume 1, Number 1, 2009. Pages 65-89

Downloadable here


What is it about? 

This article reports the results of a survey of over 500 tenants of “green” buildings to assess the effect on productivity and sick days.


What did they find?

55% of respondents reported that productivity had improved since moving into a green building, while 45% found that employees were taking fewer sick days. Respondents reported an average of 2.88 fewer sick days in their current green office versus their previous non-green office. The authors discuss the findings in terms of the annual savings and benefits which would result from this improvement. Although tenants pay a premium for green buildings, the authors say “based on the results here, these premiums of only 5% to 10% are a bargain.”


What can we take from this?

Most organisations want to know the effect of green initiatives on the bottom line. Research such as this provides invaluable evidence that investing in green has a tangible payback. It also demonstrates that people thrive in a more natural environment. While the authors discuss the likely reasons for the improvements in terms of such physical attributes as lighting and ventilation, it may also be that people in green buildings feel more relaxed and in harmony with the world, which is bound to make them feel better.


Exercise of the Month – Set Some Goals


The research reviewed in the feature article above outlines the importance of setting goals, and reveals some key elements of successful goal-setting. This months exercise provides an opportunity to set or review some goals for ourselves and others.

1.      Identify some sustainable behaviours for which you would like to either set or review some goals (for yourself, or others). For example, you may wish to set a target for household energy or water use.

2.      For each behaviour, ensure you write down specifically what you wish to achieve. Consider the following

a.      Is the goal challenging enough? Could you make it a bit more of a stretch?

b.      Will you be able to measure attainment of the goal?

c.      Is there a process by which feedback can be provided along the way?

d.      Have you ensured that any necessary support, information and resources will be in place to assist with achieving the goal?


If your goals tick all of these boxes, then there is a strong chance they will be achieved. Good luck!


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



Subscribing to Wake-Up Call


If you know someone who is interested in behaviour change for sustainability, please forward Wake-Up Call to them so they can subscribe.


To subscribe to Wake-Up call, email subscribe@awake.com.au


If you do not wish to receive this newsletter in future, please email unsubscribe@awake.com.au with “unsubscribe” in the subject field.



© Awake 2010