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In recent years, the “green,” or, environmental movement has been gaining in notoriety. Suddenly, an enormous market has emerged for green products, from environmentally friendly cleaning products to low impact vacations in eco-friendly destinations. Yet in spite of great publicity and interest, a so-called “green revolution” has not taken hold. However, as those with psychology degrees already very well know, behavioral psychology can help explain why, in spite of the existence of great amounts information on going green, individuals and corporations fail to adopt environmentally sustainable practices.
Everyday the population of the globe grows, people live longer and individuals enjoy a better standard of living. These three trends result in the greater consumption of material goods than ever before (coupled with a concurrent increase in industrial activity), increasing waste and pollution worldwide. Concern over the increase of pollution led to the beginning of the environmental movement in the United States in the 1960s. However, since the inception of this movement, environmentalism has been hardened political issue. Thus “green” has become a loaded term, causing the debate over the necessity of changing business and personal practices to become a partisan issue.
At the business level, the debate tends to focus on the question of whether environmentalism is good for industry or if it harms profitability. There is a perception that governmental and environmental regulations cut into a company’s profit. Unfortunately, this zero-sum understanding of the relationship between economics and the environment creates a strong resistance toward developing environmentally sustainable business strategies. However, creative solutions that preserve profitability while protecting the environment exist; the challenge is to shift the argument away from the environment vs. economic scenario into a debate over which win-win solutions are best.
A second obstruction to the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices is the hesitancy to make short-term sacrifices in favor of long-term benefits. This is underscored by the fact that an individual’s or business’ practices become established over time and difficult to change. Something as simple as beginning a home or business recycling program, weatherproofing a home to reduce wasted energy or modifying a business supply chain can present psychological challenges that induce procrastination and avoidance. As counterintuitive as the rejection of the long-term benefits in favor of immediate rewards may seem, it is a fundamental human trait that acts as a barrier to sustainable practices.
The third and final main barrier to going green occurs mainly at the individual level. Despite increased publicity of urgent environmental issues such as climate change, pesticide contamination of food and water and air pollution, individuals seem unwilling to act. This is because the human psyche can only accommodate a limited number of concerns at any given time. Termed the “finite pool of worry,” this theory explains the lukewarm response to environmental concerns at the same time that it provides a solution. Environmentalism on its own, despite its importance, occupies a low position on most individual’s priority lists. Concerns about the economy, the job market, personal health and quality of life tend to dominate a person’s day-to-day worries.
Therefore in order to increase its visibility, the issue of environmentalism must be reframed to fit within a person’s existing concerns. For example, people concerned about the job market, might be interested in the potential employment opportunities created by adopting renewable energy resources. When people can see how environmentally sustainable practices can benefit them personally in the short term, they are much more likely to act.
Clearly, behavioral psychology can help provide insight as to why, in spite of the urgency behind the sustainability movement, corporate and individual actions so often fail to meet expectations. By using behavioral psychology to identify the barriers to the adoption of new mindsets and behaviors, we can simultaneously highlight challenges and suggest strategies to overcome them. Resolving the resistance to environmentalism requires a multi-faceted and creative approach, but it is possible to intelligently foster a sustainable lifestyle from the bottom up.This guest post was written by Allison Gamble.
This is a guest post by Sarah Harris
The old tradition of you and your kids washing the family car in the driveway on a Sunday afternoon is slowly turning into an environmental nightmare. While most do not realize what harm this simple household chore can inflict on the environment, rest assured that it’s not worth the small amount of money saved on taking the car to a commercial car wash. Simply put, the water that runs off your dirty car goes directly into storm drains, which then runs into rivers and streams and eventually pollutes the oceans and its millions of aquatic inhabitants. Unlike excess water waste from your home, that goes through treatment before it is discharged into the environment, water from washing the car, which contains elements of gasoline, oil, and exhaust fume residue, all go straight into our delicate environment.
Although reports differ, the estimate is that the average home car wash uses 100 gallons of water. A commercial car wash is estimated to use around 45 gallons per car. If you must wash at home, there are a few things you can do to help counteract too much water usage. First, use an adjustable hose nozzle. These cost a mere $10 and allow you to adjust water pressure and most importantly the amount of water by shutting off when it’s not being used. Second, park your car either on a lawn, gravel, or dirt surface. This allows the runoff to soak into the grass keeping it green, or if it’s gravel, to easily percolate into the soil below. This should only be done with environmentally safe detergents and cleaners.
Again, if the absolute need arises to wash the car at home, there are now options to wash without using water at all. Lucky Earth and Eco Touch offer products that require no additional water. They are easy to use, typically by spraying the dirty area and wiping clean with a cloth. While this may not be the best approach with a car covered in mud and dirt, it’s a great solution for mildly grimy cars. And in addition to using no water, these products are all safe for the environment as well as the consumer. And remember, by not washing your car at home, or using better methods of doing so, you can very easily add to a wide variety of simple ways to practice sustainable living. Living our lives never again has to mean trampling the abundant environment we all use and cherish.
This is a guest post by Bryn Kingsley
Consumer behavior has undergone quite a remarkable transformation over the past few decades. There’s been a massive spike in the uptake of recycling, and this has occurred at individual, corporate, and governmental levels. For example, in the city where I live we have three bins that are collected by the council each week – a big household waste recycling bin, a big garden waste recycling bin, and a small rubbish bin that is less than half the size of the other two. This sort of service just wasn’t available when I was a kid. In my house we also do our utmost to adhere to strong environmental practices – we recycle as much as possible, our electrical power is sourced from green renewable sources, all of our lights are of the low energy consumption variety, and we offset all our carbon emissions through funding revegetation efforts that sequester carbon.
Even though these are some pretty solid achievements, unfortunately for the majority us this marks the extent of our efforts. We’re still only scratching the surface of what can be done to create a sustainable living environment, and this is largely due to the combined effect of the “I didn’t know” and “It’s too hard” mantras. So in order to combat these impediments I’m going to devote some time to talking about recycling in a way that doesn’t usually feature as part of our collective consciousness – recycled timber flooring.
Timber flooring products leave a large ecological footprint on the planet, partially due to the nature of the product, as also due to the strength of consumer demand. There’s something about entering a room and being greeted by the rich colours of timber flooring under your feet that just feels good. Perhaps it’s because wooden floors somehow manage to fuse two very different styles into the one decor – they combine a sense of lofty elegance with a home-sweet-home vibe. It’s a very well-rounded aesthetic.
When appreciating this type of flooring it’s easy to forget that timber is made from trees; of course it’s something we all know, but it’s often a subconscious recognition. As such, it’s also pretty easy for us to pay little heed to the environmental legacy of the timber floors we encounter. But the fact is that some timber flooring is made from old growth forest, and sometimes even from endangered species. The thought detracts somewhat from the sense of elegant homeliness doesn’t it?
Now I could go getting all hippie on you and start raving on about the importance of protecting the planet, the destruction of the world’s forests, and the rising salinity problems in farming areas, but I figure most people know this stuff (hopefully!), and that it’s more important to talk about economically viable solutions. So as I see it, there are really four sorts of alternatives:
1.) Constructing your floors out of something else
There are plenty of options – carpets, tiles, slate, vinyl, concrete, laminate, and rugs – to name a few. However if we want the look and feel of timber, then these are pretty much non-starters.
2.) Imitation timber:
Imitation timber comes in vinyl and laminate forms, and for some it could be a good option. For others there’s one little point that can’t be ignored: it looks like imitation timber, not like real timber, so if you want to make a statement of style then it doesn’t really fit the bill.
3.) Plantation timber:
This is often a really good option. It has the benefits of real timber, without the environmental problems. There are just two problems with plantation timber that stand in the way of making this a great solution. Firstly, plantation timber can be pretty expensive. Secondly, there’s generally a fairly limited range to choose from – pine trees are a dime a dozen, but some of the more exotic species can be extremely difficult to come by.
4.) Recycled timber flooring
To me this option brings the best of all worlds to the fore. It presents a great environmentally friendly solution, it’s a real timber product so it has an authentic appearance, and it can be sourced at an extremely cost effective price. The clincher though is that recycled timber flooring is often of higher quality than new timber flooring, and here are the reasons why:
a. The timber has been re-milled to present a fresh clean finish that looks brand new;
b. Recycled timber is much less likely to warp out of shape because the wood has already been well seasoned;
c. It’s often much better suited to matching the colour to an existing well-aged floor;
d. It can usually be custom machined to your specific size and dimension requirements.
So, in short, recycled timber flooring is great for the environment, it can be sourced at fantastic quality, and it’s often one of the most cost-effective solutions to creating those deep earthy wooden colours in your house. Next time you’re thinking recycling, allow your mind to do a little creative wandering, and think outside the box of newspaper, plastic bottles, and tin cans – you’d be surprised what you can come up with.
Bryn writes for Fremantle Timber Traders and aims to educate people about the green home renovation. This post is on the topic of recycled timber flooring.