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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Treating consumption : strategies for promoting a sustainable lifestyle Folz, Harmony Meleta Johanna

Abstract

Human behaviour, particularly the over-consumption of resources, is highly implicated in the environmental and social ills that face our planet. Therefore, if sustainability is to be achieved, many changes are needed in the way we live our lives. These changes cannot be achieved without significant behaviour change on our part; new technologies, environmental education, and structural changes all will be ineffective unless there is behaviour change. Behaviour change can be incremental and self-reinforcing, so the important thing is not what behaviours need to change, but that some sustainability behaviours are adopted. This thesis examines how these sustainability behaviours could be encouraged. It examines literature on psychological factors influencing behaviour and on behaviour change strategies, using the Precede/Proceed Model as an organizing rubric. From the literature, several conclusions are drawn. First, the goal should be to produce some change, not any specific change. Second, strategies should be comprehensive, and address predisposing, reinforcing, and enabling factors, as well as including provision for evaluation and refinement. This means that information strategies should be used only to give understanding and motivation as part of a comprehensive strategy, that removing barriers and increasing availability/accessibility is necessary, and that skills and feelings of competence and self-efficacy should be developed. Third, change should be voluntary, and chosen by the individual, preferably as part of a participatory problem solving exercise. Fourth, social pressures, roles and commitment should be utilized by program planners, especially through the use of groups; also, people should be told that they are a certain way in order to shift their personal norms, self-concept and social identity towards being someone who acts sustainably. Finally, change should be framed as an improvement to one's lifestyle and people should be made to feel that they can make a difference, and once behaviour has changed, that they are making a difference. Based on these findings, a comprehensive group behaviour change strategy is proposed and outlined.

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