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Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, No. 3, 2000, pp. 543–554

Promoting Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing

Doug McKenzie-Mohr*

St. Thomas University

Most programs to foster sustainable behavior continue to be based upon models of behavior change that psychological research has found to be limited. Although psychology has much to contribute to the design of effective programs to foster sus- tainable behavior, little attention has been paid to ensuring that psychological knowledge is accessible to those who design environmental programs. This article presents a process, community-based social marketing, that attempts to make psychological knowledge relevant and accessible to these individuals. Further, it provides two case studies in which program planners have utilized this approach to deliver their initiatives. Finally, it reflects on the obstacles that exist to incorpo- rating psychological expertise into programs to promote sustainable behavior.

Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immea- surably more complex than our subsequent explanations of them.

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky

I have a simple wish. Each time I journey to the library to review new contribu- tions to the environmental psychology literature, I hope that I will see an individual whom I know, from either a nongovernmental organization, or the Department of the Environment, or the city, who works on environmental programs. My wish is that I will find this individual reviewing the literature and contemplating how best to apply it to program delivery. I have carried this wish for a decade now and it is yet to be realized. Consequently, I have become increasingly convinced that despite our desire to contribute to the attainment of a sustainable future, our publi- cations contribute far more to career advancement than they do to environmental

*Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Doug McKenzie-Mohr, Depart- ment of Psychology, St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada E3B 5G3 [e-mail: McKenzie@StThomasU.ca].


© 2000 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

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