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March 2008
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Welcome to the March 2008 Wake-Up Call, Awake’s monthly newsletter for research and news about behaviour change for sustainability.

In this edition of Wake-up Call…


60 Seconds with… Jessa Boanas-Dewes, Marketing and Communications Advisor at  Szencorp

What first got you focused on sustainability?
I have always been conscious of environmental issues, particularly through having a mother who was an anti-nuclear campaigner.  The tipping point was seeing An Inconvenient Truth which re-radicalised me, it was a turning point in my commitment to doing something much more serious about sustainability. I quit my job and moved back to New Zealand to start a Masters in Environmental Management…then got a job at a sustainable development company back in Melbourne shortly after!

What is the sustainable choice you have recently made of which you are most proud?
Riding my bike everywhere…and trying to buy everything possible second hand.

What is a less sustainable choice that you are not so proud of?
Being from NZ, especially, I do a bit of jet travel though I try to avoid it.


Research Finding of the Month - Green Defaults

Green defaults: Information presentation and pro-environmental behaviour
Daniel Pichert & Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos
Journal of Environmental Psychology
Volume 28, Issue 1, March 2008, Pages 63-73

What is it about? 
The researchers investigated whether purchasing of green power increased when it was offered as the ?default? power option, not the ?alternative? option. ?Specifically, we hypothesise that people use the kind of electricity that is offered to them as the default.?

What did they find?
The researchers did find that the uptake of green power was greater when it was offered as the default.  This effect applied to both laboratory simulations as well as real life situations where electricity providers presented the options in this way.

What can we take from this?
This simple change in the way green power is offered to consumers has the potential to greatly increase it?s uptake, and thus reduce the carbon emissions generated through electricity use.  I wonder what other products this applies to?  (And why are eco-friendly alternatives always hidden away in the fringes of supermarket shelves?)


Exercise of the Month - Breaking Habits
  1. Make a list of 5 things you have been putting off doing.  Maybe they are tasks, conversations, decisions.  These are things that have been on the to-do list for a while. 
  2. For each of the items on your list, note what value that action (or would-be action) represents. If you are stuck, try choosing from the values list in the article above.

This is a simple exercise to get us thinking about what values are represented by our actions (or non-actions in this case!)  

Unappealing tasks can seem a bit more palatable if we can connect them to the bigger picture. You may even discover that you are doing something to meet a value which you do not feel is important to you, and make the decision to delete it from your to-do list permanently.

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!

Thought for the month

"Except for the very small amount that has been incinerated - and it is a very small amount - every bit of plastic ever made still exists".  Charles Moore, Founder of Algalita Marine Research Foundation , quoted in Mens Health, April 2008

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 - All about values

At the core of many discussions about behaviour change for sustainability lies the issue of values.  It is commonly accepted that if, as a society, we are to change our behaviour on the scale required to avert the worst of current eco-doom predictions, we will need to change the values we are pursuing.

So, what are values all about? Collins Dictionary defines values as "the moral principles and beliefs of a person or group".  All the actions we take, all the things we buy, all the places we live, represent things that we value.  Every decision that we make involves choosing between 2 or more values, either consciously or unconsciously.  Should we stay home and study tonight (living our value of achievement), or go out partying (the fun value)? 

Even though our actions reflect certain values, it is not always obvious to others what those values are.  For instance, consider why someone might choose to cycle to work, and the values which they might be living by doing so.  It could be for reasons of fitness (representing a wellbeing value), to save money (thrift), to avoid traffic stress (relaxation) or to lower carbon emissions (sustainability).  So just by seeing someone riding by, we cannot necessarily infer their values. 

There are literally hundreds of values out there (wherever "there" is).  Here are just a few.

Self expression
Service to society

At some stage, we will have acted in a way which supports most of the values above.  However, we do have certain values which we prefer to make a priority in our decisions.  These are values which we hold dearest and prefer not to consciously compromise.  They tend to stay stable over time, although will change as we change, especially in response to big personal upheavals or personal transformation. 

When we are able to live in accordance with these priority values, there are benefits for our wellbeing and satisfaction.  Research by Meglino and Ravlin (1998), mainly focusing on organisations,  found that alignment between our values and our environment had a positive impact on such outcomes as satisfaction, organisational commitment, and blood pressure.  For example, for someone who values freedom highly, being stuck in a regimented, restrictive environment can be stifling.  If we place a value on order and certainty, we will be uncomfortable in a situation of chaos. By and large, we will seek, or create, environments where our values are able to be lived. 

So this takes us to the question of what sustainability has to do with values, and more importantly, how those of us who promote sustainability can use our knowledge of values to support our efforts.

Firstly, let’s consider if people who care about the environment, and do something about it, have different values to those who don’t. 

Nordlund and Garvill (2002) found that those who prioritised values which would be considered cooperative (or "self-transcendence" values) were more likely to show concern for the environment, and act in a more eco-friendly way, than those who hold values of "self-enhancement ("power and achievement" values).   The authors sum up the research of themselves and others by stating that "Individuals with a cooperative value orientation have been found to give more weight to the collective consequences of their behaviour and be more willing to make sacrifices for the common good than those with an individual value orientation".

So it does appear that there is a link between the values we hold, and the likelihood that we will act in favour of the environment.   This raises the further question as to whether we are able to change the values of citizens at a rate required to deal with the accelerating environmental concerns. 

The good news is, it may not be necessary to "change values", but rather to stimulate those values that people hold which are cooperative and consistent with sustainability.  Remember the example cited earlier about riding the bike to work?  This illustrates that certain behaviours which are supportive of the environment can meet a number of our values. Therefore it is not always necessary to instill a sustainability value within people, but rather if people can see (or feel) a link between their values and eco-friendly behaviour, they are more likely to adopt that behaviour.

In practical terms, this may involve
  • Adding a values component to communications promoting sustainability
  • Starting conversations and presentations with questions which stimulate peoples thinking about what is important to them
  • For a more captive audience, running some sort of exercise in which they explore their values
As noted earlier, we all have many things which we value.  If we can somehow raise peoples connection to these values in the same process of communicating sustainability, we stand a better chance of the penny dropping that environmental degradation is a threat to many of the things we hold dear, regardless of whether we spend much time thinking about the trees and dolphins. 

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


Special Offer for Wake-Up Call Subscribers - Free Values Questionnaire

Want to identify your priority values?   The first 10 Wake-Up call subscribers to follow the link below to the MVQ Values Questionnaire will receive a free values report, which will elicit your values, as well as providing a couple of useful exercises to help you live your values. 

To take advantage of this offer, click here and enter wakeupcall as the password.  (The password will expire after 10 uses, so if you get through to the questionnaire and complete it, you will definitely receive a free values report.