Shaping Green Behaviour

by Rasheeda Russell on Jun 07, 2022

male writing at desk in front of imac monitor

Making the world more sustainable is a collective work. Humans have a significant share of responsibility in the current environmental crisis. The best way we can stop the damage we are causing is to change our behaviour to become more environmentally conscious. This means considering the environmental impact before we act, buy something or throw something away. To change this mindset, as a society, we must first understand why people behave the way they do and what drives that behaviour.

We are constantly processing new information in our daily lives -- the colour of your neighbour’s car, the email we just sent, the texture of snow, the advertisement we just skipped, the emotional expression of your friend. We process this information and it shapes our attitude towards all the things in our lives. Our attitude towards something will then result in how we behave.

black mobile phone with recycling logo home screen background

For example, when asked “why do you eat cookies?” some people find it hard to rationalise why and probably answer “because it tastes good”. It could be something more though. Cookies can be a symbol of a childhood memory and the association brings happiness, therefore that person’s attitude toward cookies is positive. That positive attitude towards cookies can then be reflected in the behaviour of buying and eating cookies.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive deeper into what helps to drive behavioural change. From a psychological perspective, there are four factors that we can discuss.

four psychological factors driving behavioural change

In behavioural economics Daniel Kahneman introduced the terms System 1 and System 2. We navigate our everyday life using these systems. We use System 1 in high fluency situations, for example when we’re speaking in our native language. It takes little to no effort to perform because we are accustomed to it. System 2 is used when we need more effort to decode, understand or think. For example, when we are solving mathematical problems or filling out an important form.

male and female seem lost

We would be more inclined to change behaviour if we understood it. When we see colour-coordinated recycle bins they are usually equipped with simple explanations: blue is for paper, yellow is for metal, red is for plastic and so on. For someone who is not familiar with the recycling system, they are using System 2 to process these explanations. Eventually however they will be able to effortlessly put their recycling in the right bin because their fluency has increased.

three coloured wheelie bins

Nowadays, practising sustainability is still deemed to be complicated and/or expensive especially when it comes to business. The thought of it tends to deter people from putting more effort into understanding what can be done, hence we still see environmental initiatives not being prioritised. Fluency in this area is not widely mastered yet. There are ways to implement greener solutions that don't cost the earth (pun intended), such as choosing sustainability-focused suppliers. To understand how big of an impact we are having is also important. That’s why at Klyk we send out a monthly Sustainability Report to our customers to keep them in the loop of their positive progress towards sustainability.

mobile phone with screenshot of sustainability report

People most often act in a way that aligns with their values and beliefs. As humans, we like to be consistent and try to practice what we preach. It’s rooted back to the cause-and-effect we talked about earlier, how our attitude to something reflects on our behaviour. For example, when people take pledges to act more environmentally friendly, they are more likely to behave greener.

When our beliefs are not aligned with our behaviour, we are faced with cognitive dissonance. We experience some level of discomfort because of the inconsistency. Eventually, we will try to correct it one way or another -- by changing the belief or behaviour -- to restore the consistency.

silver macbook and black iphone with forest home screen backgrounds

Ever find yourself watching a horror movie and your heart rate increased with the suspense? That’s your brain’s amygdala being activated. The amygdala is the part of your brain that deals with fear stimulus. Fear is considered to be a good trigger for changing behaviour. For example, the fear that the Earth will no longer be habitable because of the environmental impact of our activities today triggers people to adopt green behaviour to make up for it.

climate change protest cardboard posters

Does Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) sound familiar? As social creatures we have a tendency to look towards others’ behaviour as a measure against our own. The more people acting in the same way, the more acceptable it feels. Especially when the ones acting that way are considered experts, then it is perceived as more trusted. This can really help in changing one’s behaviour.

For example, when Sir David Attenborough said in an interview for us not to waste anything, the idea seems more appealing and trustworthy because he is considered an expert in environmental issues with a high authority in his field. Now that more individuals are actively reducing waste, it opens the awareness of waste management to the wider society and will shift more behaviour.

male and female recycling

Of course there are more factors that drive behavioural change that we can do both individually and collectively. But we hope these four factors can be useful to understand our behaviour and how we can change it for the better.

If you are keen to explore what you can do to implement sustainability in your business tech, we have articles on understanding e-waste, the environmental impact of your tech purchase, donating your tech devices, a guide for buying refurbished and eco leasing your tech.