Promoting low-carbon lifestyles: addressing inforational needs through small-group participation
Achieving the carbon emission reductions necessary to address climate change is proving challenging. Voluntary behaviour change by individuals has the potential to make a substantial contribution to decreasing carbon emissions, but generally that potential is not being realised. Group-based interventions, however, may offer an effective method for promoting significant and durable changes in pro-environmental behaviour leading to carbon reductions. This thesis evaluates Footpaths, a group-based programme designed and implemented by Transition Leicester and consisting of seven sessions. The study investigates the effectiveness of the programme, using a longitudinal mixed-methods approach to facilitate understanding of both measurable results and the processes leading to those results. The Reasonable Person Model (RPM) is used as a theoretical framework to aid understanding of the way in which group-based interventions may promote pro-environmental behaviour. Data were collected from participants just before and immediately after involvement with the Footpaths programme, as well as a year after the sessions commenced. Questionnaires were administered at all three times and semi-structured interviews were conducted after the last session. Participants also completed a carbon footprint calculator at all three times and provided data on measured energy use. Findings show that Footpaths participants reduced their carbon footprints by 15 percent over the course of the sessions, and continued to reduce their carbon footprints resulting in a 20 percent reduction over the course of a year. Pro-environmental behaviour increased, including increases in harder to change behaviours, and measured energy use decreased. Increases in pro-environmental behaviour and reductions in carbon footprint were associated with increased understanding, greater feelings of competence, and reduced confusion; all considered to be elements of a supportive informational environment. Participants highlighted the importance of having an opportunity to examine their own behaviour coupled with active engagement with information over a period of time. Neither feedback nor a desire for social contact were related to increases in pro-environmental behaviour. Pro-environmental behaviour was more closely associated with both worldview and attitude after participation in Footpaths possibly indicating a closer alignment between attitude and behaviour after participation. This research suggests that group-based interventions are effective in promoting significant and durable changes in pro-environmental behaviour and it provides interesting insight into the design of successful interventions to encourage such behaviour. Findings highlight the potential value of the RPM as an integrative framework for understanding the characteristics of interventions that successfully promote durable sustainable behaviours.
- PhD