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Promoting Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing - page 2 / 12

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McKenzie-Mohr

betterment. We have created a psychological literature that is largely invisible to those who can most benefit from it. Lack of visibility, however, does not equal irrelevance. Changing individual behavior is central to achieving a sustainable future. Accordingly, psychology is of considerable relevance to the delivery of effective environmental programs. Desirable goals, such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste, and increasing energy and water efficiency can be met only if high levels of public participation are achieved. Despite the apparent importance of psychological knowledge to effective program design, program planners have yet to widely access or utilize it. Indeed, my experience in working with these individuals has led me to believe that most are not aware that our literature exists or of its relevance to their efforts. I expect that the pressures that exist to publish in academic journals has led to few attempts to make our expertise accessible to those who can most benefit from it. Until we do this we can feel self- righteous in conducting environmental research, but I doubt that we are participat- ing in a truly meaningful enterprise. In short, until we reach out to the individuals who design and deliver environmental programs, our efforts will remain invisible to those who can most benefit from them.

This article presents one attempt to make psychological knowledge visible and relevant to program planners. It outlines a process, community-based social marketing, for developing and delivering environmental programs that is based on psychological expertise. This process has now been presented via workshops, pub- lications, and a Web site (www.cbsm.com) to several thousand program planners in Canada (Kassirer & McKenzie-Mohr, 1998; McKenzie-Mohr, 1996; McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999). This article also presents two attempts by plan- ners to apply this information and reflects on the challenges faced in its application.

To date, most programs to foster sustainable behavior have been information- intensive. In these campaigns, media advertising and the distribution of printed materials are used to foster behavior change. Information-intensive campaigns are usually based on one of two perspectives on behavior change. With the first, pro- gram planners assume that by enhancing knowledge of an issue, such as global warming, and encouraging the development of attitudes that are supportive of an activity, such as using mass transit, behavior will change. Unfortunately, a variety of studies have established that enhancing knowledge and creating supportive atti- tudes often has little or no impact upon behavior. For example:

  • Householders who were interested in enhancing the energy efficiency of their homes participated in a comprehensive workshop on residen- tial energy conservation. Despite significant changes in knowledge and attitudes, behavior did not change (Geller, 1981).

  • Householders who volunteered to participate in a 10-week study of water conservation received a booklet that described the relationship between water use and energy use, and methods were described that

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