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Yesterday attended a talk at university by Dr Wojke Abrahamse of Surrey’s RESOLVE working group, about their research project to encourage lifestyle changes in the home in response to climate change. Their project used a mix of information provision, goal setting and tailored feedback over the internet, and achieved significant changes.
This has a lot of crossover with my own research in this area (indeed, one of the questions asked was whether anyone had tried using groups – I held my tongue but will email the relevant parties later). It also has the same limitations – self-report risks of inflating results, preaching to the converted, etc.
Three things of interest:
(1) there is some evidence that environmental changes are more likely to take root when accompanied by other big lifestyle shifts, particularly moving to a new home. Seems obvious now it’s been pointed out. Something to keep in mind anyway…
(2) one of the participants in Wojke’s study was so enthusiastic he tracked carefully the energy usage for each shower by each member of his family… among his detailed conclusions? “The strongest indicator of shower energy use is hair length”. Hee! Is Greenpeace ready to start a “short hair will save the planet” campaign?
(3) this came out in discussion – Wojke felt that the very different circumstances of each person make it difficult to advise people in general where they should start if they want to make some changes, but I think her own data tells a different story. The right place to start is with the very easiest things. All behaviours are not created equal, and some can shift markedly without much difficulty (e.g. stopping the use of standby on your appliances, shifting to low-power lightbulbs) while others demand much more to shift (e.g. using your car less, shifting to home-cooked food from prepared processed food). In her own data, car use patterns hardly changed, even though change in other areas was distinct; this is precisely to be expected. It just seems obvious to me that people should start with the very easiest things (regardless of the relative ecological impact of those things) because each change builds up context for, commitment to and moves identity towards environmental responsibility. (This also betrays my bigger diagnosis that individual action is primarily useful for its consequences in the political marketplace, making politicians act like this stuff matters to voters.)

{ 5 } Comments

  1. Stephanie | June 9, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    For your interest, there’s a behavioural change group starting up locally:

  2. morgue | June 9, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Yes! Thanks for posting this Steph – you emailed me about it weeks ago and it’s been in my “get to this” pile. I still need to give it a proper look-over!

  3. Stephanie | June 9, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Oops, forgot I already sent it. 🙂

  4. fish | June 9, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Re point (2) – shower length/hair length correlation:
    Sam’s showers are WAAAYYY longer than mine! (like 7 mins compared to 15 minutes).
    Maybe I have a residual shower memory from when I had a #2 haircut… or maybe I just don’t wash my hair properly.

  5. Stephen | June 9, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Apropos change: yes I’m convinced that starting with easy things is the way to go, for lots of reasons.