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Promoting Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing - page 3 / 12





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Promoting Sustainable Behavior

could conserve water. Even though great attention was given to pre- paring the booklet, it had no impact upon water consumption (Geller, Erickson, & Buttram, 1983).

  • Two surveys of Swiss respondents found that environmental attitudes and knowledge were poorly associated with environmental behavior (Finger, 1994).

  • When 500 people were interviewed regarding their personal responsi- bility for picking up litter, 94% acknowledged responsibility. When leaving the interview, however, only 2% picked up litter that had been “planted” by the researcher (Bickman, 1972).


The second perspective suggests that behavior is strongly influenced by economic motives. When planners adopt this perspective, they are apt to deliver programs that highlight the economic advantages of engaging in a specific activity, such as installing compact fluorescent bulbs, assuming that the public is “rational” and will act in their economic self-interest. As before, information-intensive programs that have been based on this perspective have also been largely unsuc- cessful. For instance, California utilities annually spend $200 million to foster resi- dential energy efficiency through the purchase of energy-efficient innovations, such as programmable thermostats, or through lifestyle changes, such as turning down air conditioning before leaving for work (Costanzo, Archer, Aronson, & Pettigrew, 1986). Despite this expensive advertising campaign, household energy use has remained essentially unaltered. Similarly, when the Residential Conserva- tion Service (RCS) was brought into existence by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1978, utilities were mandated to provide their customers with free home energy audits, low-cost loans, and information on contractors and suppliers. Evaluations of this effort suggest that on average energy use per household was reduced by 2–3% (Hirst, 1984; Hirst, Berry, & Soderstrom, 1981; U.S. Department of Energy, 1984). Considering that millions of dollars were spent on the RCS and that energy savings of substantially more than 2–3% are attainable, this initiative can only be viewed as a failure. A U.S. National Research Council report concluded that the RCS overlooks “the rich mixture of cultural practices, social interactions, and human feelings that influence the behavior of individuals, social groups and insti- tutions” (Stern & Aronson, 1984).

Information campaigns likely proliferate because it is comparably easy to air radio or television advertisements or distribute printed material. Advertising, how- ever, is often a very expensive way of reaching people. In one extreme case, a California utility spent more money on advertising the benefits of insulation than it would have cost to upgrade the insulation of targeted homes (Pope, 1982). The fail- ure of mass-media campaigns to foster sustainable behavior is due to some extent to inadequate design of the messages, but more importantly to an underestimation of the difficulty of changing behavior (Costanzo et al., 1986). Costanzo et al. note

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