University of Vermont

Green Dorm

Learning how to foster sustainable behavior

by Steve Posner, M.S., Sustainability Fellow and Eco-Reps Program Coordinator

The semester had just begun when I traveled to Toronto for a 2-day workshop focused on fostering sustainable behavior. I learned the nuts and bolts of a compelling approach called Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) that is being used all over the world to shift communities toward more environmentally responsible behaviors.

The workshop was offered by Doug McKenzie-Mohr and included participants from regional planning organizations, municipal governments, higher education, and non-profits who designed human health and environmental programs. As an environmental psychologist, Doug brought a wealth of useful knowledge and experience to the workshop. As on-the-ground practitioners, the participants brought real world programs and issues that they were currently working on or developing. The group atmosphere was ripe with respect for the importance of changing how humans behave on a large scale.

CBSM goes beyond information-intensive campaigns that aim to raise awareness and educate, because it has been shown many times that simply providing more information is not enough to motivate new behavior. There is much more to understanding environmentally significant behaviors. What we need is a careful consideration of the barriers to bringing about new behavior, as well as the benefits of adopting new ways of acting. Projects that use the CBSM approach do just that - using an easy-to-follow five step process, we learned how to create programs with a greater chance of successfully improving the ways people behave.

For those interested in learning more, the CBSM website has interactive features that can provide examples of impactful programs, online discussions on methods, and a wide range of resources from academic literature, program reports, and more.

I highly recommend this workshop and the CBSM approach as a critical aspect of our work to create a sustainable and desirable future.