March 28th, 2011

Negabehaviors and Environmental Sustainability

By Joel Ross and Bill Tomlinson

Helping people learn to adopt more pro-social lifestyles usually involves persuading them to take new, beneficial actions. However, certain pro-social goals, such as achieving environmental sustainability, also require people to stop performing harmful actions—people are commonly instructed to drive less, use less electricity, and otherwise reduce the amount of resources they consume and waste they produce. In order to help people adopt this potentially unintuitive form of behavior change, we introduce a theoretical framework for the concept of “negabehaviors.” A negabehavior is a manner of conducting oneself that supplants undesirable actions—that is, the behavior of not performing specific, undesirable actions. Negabehaviors are a variation on the idea of “negawatts” (a unit of energy saved through conservation), and offer a way to view and teach environmental sustainability that focuses on subtractive elements rather than additive ones. In this paper we present a framework and theoretical grounding for understanding negabehaviors. We discuss the relationship between negabehaviors and environmental sustainability, describing potential ways that this concept can be used in formal and informal sustainability education. By placing an emphasis on actions people need to stop taking, we

Full PDF:  RossTomlinson2011

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