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Promoting Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing - page 5 / 12





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Promoting Sustainable Behavior


behaviors, resources rarely exist to foster public participation in a wide range of activities. Consequently, it is necessary to make an informed decision regarding which behavior(s) to promote. With community-based social marketing, the decision regarding which behavior(s) to promote is based primarily upon the answer to three questions. First, what is the potential impact of the behavior? That is, what level of reduction in greenhouse gases are achievable, for example, through modal transportation shifts or the purchase of more-energy-efficient vehi- cles? Second, what barriers exist to engaging in these activities? In deciding which behavior to promote, it is important to know what the barriers are to broad public participation in the activity. In a limited number of cases, the psychological literature has already identified barriers (see, for example, McKenzie-Mohr, Nemiroff, Beers, & Desmarais, 1995; Schultz, Oskamp, & Mainieri, 1995), though frequently this information needs to be contextualized. For instance, in colder cli- mates winter can be a significant barrier to year-round backyard composting, whereas weather may not be a consideration at all in other areas. In many cases, barriers have not been identified (see Stern & Oskamp, 1987, for a review of the environmental psychology literature), necessitating that preliminary research be conducted prior to deciding which behavior(s) to promote. In identifying barriers, social marketers often identify differences between individuals who engage in the activity and those who do not. Several research methods can be utilized to uncover these differences, including focus groups, observational studies, and survey research. Further, statistical techniques, such as discriminant analysis and logistic regression, can be particularly useful in identifying and prioritizing differences. For example, these techniques were used to distinguish householders who engage in backyard composting from those who did not (McKenzie-Mohr et al., 1995). This research revealed that in comparison to noncomposters, individuals who compost perceive reducing waste as being more important, and composting as less unpleasant, inconvenient, and time consuming.

Barriers to a behavior may be either internal (e.g., lacking the perceived skill to install a programmable thermostat) or external (e.g., absence of programmable thermostats locally; see Stern, this issue). Also, numerous barriers exist for any behavior, and these barriers appear to be behavior specific (McKenzie-Mohr et al., 1995; Oskamp, 1995; Tracy & Oskamp, 1983–84). That is, what impedes an indi- vidual, for example, from walking to work is distinct from what might preclude her from closing the blinds each morning or purchasing products with recycled content. Accordingly, the genesis of a sound community-based social marketing strategy is identifying barriers. Without detailed knowledge of barriers, it is highly unlikely that an effective strategy can be developed. Psychological expertise in research methods and statistical techniques can contribute significantly to the uncovering of barriers and the development of sound strategies.

The third question to be asked in determining which behavior(s) to promote is whether the resources exist to overcome identified barriers. An important

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