How Psychology of Change Can Increase Sustainable Behaviour.

April 8, 2021

Research shows psychology can be used to your advantage to influence positive behaviour and increase climate action participation. MUST READ for social media managers, eco communicators & sustainability marketing & advertising. 


By Marina de Pina-Jenkins

Social Psychology can help us influence participation in Climate Action and support people while navigating so many changes in society. After 15 years of doing outreach and over 5 years of sharing my eco journey on social media, I want to share some key ways that Eco Communicators & anyone interested in sustainability marketing can use psychology to their advantage.

This piece also includes some key quotes & takeaways from a podcast featuring Una terra. “Moose Are Bigger Than You Think” is a conservation podcast project for Canadians with no experience with conservation! 


Change is scary: We resist change, but fear of the unknown can result in clinging to status quo behaviours—no matter how bad they are. 

Strategy to deal with this is to examine the consequences (emotional & physical).


Emotional Response to Society’s Problems:

“When we’re in a “phase of anxiousness about not doing anything, you feel guilty, you feel strange, you feel anxious and overwhelmed. And if you want ease, peacefulness, happiness and purpose, feeling like you’re actually contributing to society in a positive way, you can do that with small things (like reducing your meat consumption). There’s so many ways that you can start to take on some of the tasks that should be shared by all of us. It’s a heavy burden if it’s on two people’s backs, but we have over [37 million Canadians] who can help us with this burden.”

When trying to influence through communications, we can use “peer pressure” to guide a change in our society’s outlook: one common finding in social psychology is that people frequently do not realize the extent to which behaviour is influenced by the social situation.” (Basically we’re saying it’s cool to care). 

A common belief is that rewards can help motivate us but “In some cases, reward may actually make us like an activity less than we did before we were rewarded for it.” In this case, we can give logical reasons to the benefits of participating & consequences of inaction. 


Emotional Response to Ignite Change:

The turtle with the straw is a great example of using an emotional response to ignite positive societal change. You know, when we have an emotional reason to do something, or not to do something, it’s a really strong motivator for our actions & behaviour.”  

If you’re going to use a straw and you have this image in your mind of a turtle suffering because of your action, the emotional response will correspond to your behaviour change. 

“So what I’m trying to do is share with people that you don’t have to stay in that state of fear and procrastination and that constant feeling of unease and guilt and “not enough”. You can move towards a proud way to be living your life.”


Using Social Media to Create Change in People’s Behaviours: 

“Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment, a.k.a. procrastination. The opposite word is Enkrasia – which is to be in power of one’s self. And I try to think of that when I’m creating content anywhere on Una Terra messaging, and that is to either entertain, educate or to inspire – to help people move towards Enkrasia. Those are the things that create an emotional response, which is the strongest indicator of affecting people’s behaviour. They might not remember it all the time, but if you can have that light bulb moment once it makes an impact. And I think that can trigger more curiosity and have a cascading impact in general.” Social media will give those consistent & gentle reminders until people get their own lightbulb moment. 


Why should people get involved? 

“So our country has committed fifty percent. We are able to do that. And that’s why I feel we are each responsible to make that happen. We’ve been given a huge leg up due to the colonial history built on the backs of those we exploited to get to where we we are now. If we don’t do something with that leg up, what was it all for? Just for ten people to get a billion dollars richer? Not for me. That is not the future for Canada that I want to see. So I hope that the message isn’t only about reducing your impact & to stop buying, because those, although they have a positive intention, actually have a negative response I feel. So for me, that’s why the #HalveCanadasImpact movement is also joined by the hashtag #CanadasPositiveImpact, because volunteering has a positive impact without it actually being a tangible calculator towards your ecological footprint or how those little parts of how we interact in society have positive consequences without being necessarily quantifiable.”


To learn more about your individual impact view Una Terra’s course THE WHY & THE HOW here.



By Marina de Pina-Jenkins (she/her)
Bicultural Canadian Settler 

Instagram: @Blackberrytrees
Resources for further reading: Social Psychology



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