Follow the crowd to eco-friendly behaviour

Tuesday, 08 January, 2013

Is it your New Year’s resolution to be eco-friendly? Consult your friends first.

A QUT Green Study of Brisbane residents has found that people are more likely to walk for transport and carry re-usable bags if friends and family do.

Research fellow Lee-Ann Wilson, from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at QUT, surveyed 1535 Brisbane and Moreton Bay residents to explore what motivated people to be eco-friendly.

She set out to understand four ‘environmentally friendly’ behaviours: walking for transport, switching off lights, turning appliances off at the wall and shopping with re-usable bags.

Wilson, who completed the research as part a PhD, found that people were more likely to be eco-friendly if their friends or neighbours were and if they thought their family approved.

“It surprised me how much what we think other people are doing really mattered,” she said.

“If we identify with someone who cares for the environment, such as our family members or neighbours, it influences our behaviour.”

When survey participants were asked what motivated their actions, Wilson found that most people were interested in saving time, money and face.

For example, the study found people switched off appliances at the wall when they were trying to save money and they believed their friends and neighbours switched off appliances.

Wilson said participants who didn’t switch off appliances said they didn’t want to reset clocks and timers.

The study found survey participants were more likely to walk for transport if their closest friend also walked, while those who didn’t walk thought it would be inconvenient.

Wilson said the findings would help environmental groups and governments develop campaigns to encourage more sustainable behaviour, particularly walking for transport.

For example, she said a campaign that encourages shopping with re-usable bags might use the message ‘The majority of customers at our store bring their own bags. They feel great about protecting dugongs and turtles and keeping our fish stocks free of toxins.’

“That’s the sort of message that has an impact,” Wilson said.

“Because social norms are so important, the best thing we can do as individuals is to make sustainable choices ourselves and be an example to the people around us.

“The goal is to make environmentally friendly behaviour the norm and what people see as the socially accepted way of behaving.”

Related News

Aussie innovation tests seabeds for offshore wind farms

Australian engineers have unveiled a device based on a modified spear gun to test seabed soil...

Low-income tenants go solar in Vic

Solar Victoria and Haven Home Safe have undertaken a significant solar installation through the...

Will hydrogen play a critical role in the energy transition?

The role of hydrogen in Australia's energy transition and more broadly was the focus of a...


  • All content Copyright © 2024 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd