Eco-Coach

Green your life at home, work & play

A Change in Behavior for Sustainability February 27, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Business Response to Climate Change: CleanTech Panel at George Washington University. All of the panelists seemed to agree on many important points that will make sustainability economically and socially viable, among which two particularly stood out to me: 1) we cannot depend on one solution and 2) we have not yet found a ground-breaking development that will make sustainability go global. The first one is just a reiteration of what I had always thought and been told by many people. We cannot depend on one source to sustain population growth, with all its social, environmental and economical implications.

On the other hand, I had not really though of the urge of developing some ground-breaking technology that will make sustainability accessible to everyone, and, additionally, everyone has to want to implement it. This is where the greatest challenge stands: in making green technology available to people no matter what their economic status and changing their behavior into adapting sustainable measures in their everyday lives.

One of the most difficult achievements of the green movement is to get people to integrate environmental initiatives in their daily lives by breaking the barriers of engagement. Changing behavior is not an easy task, and humans tend to follow patterns and avoid change. In order to wedge in sustainable change in the workplace, employers must be creative. They must implement solutions that might not be business-related but that will result in changing behavior and improve sustainability indirectly through other activities.

An example of a long-term initiative is to ask staff to make two or three resolutions for going green at home. Ask them to write them down and put them in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Seal the envelope and send it to them after an agreed-upon period of time, such as three or six months. This assumes, of course, that participants are willing to learn and to self-motivate. This activity should be undertaken after some basic education (see past blog on this) on the benefits of going green has been provided to participants.

Aside from incentives (see past blog on this), having fun is a great way to change behavior.  Volkswagen used the fun theory to increase use of stairs and trash disposal. Besides being a marketing stunt to promote Volkswagen as a brand for sustainability, fun theory provides some creative ways to change people’s behavior for the better. Click here to see more!

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