Behavior change

The 3 pitfalls that trap sustainability leaders — and how to avoid them

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

In my conversations with sustainability leaders throughout the years, I’ve heard varying views on what works to engage others — whether it be employees, CEOs, shareholders or your neighbor — in a productive exchange about how to build a more sustainable world.

I’ve also heard stories about what doesn’t work. Too often, well-meaning leaders try to turn the dial on sustainability within their companies, organizations or communities, but unknowingly succumb to common conversational pitfalls, undermining their hard work and good intentions.

That dilemma was the subject of a recent working paper, “Authentic Sustainability: Navigating Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Pathways in Conversations toward a Better World,” co-written by Gabriel Grant, a doctoral candidate in leadership and sustainability at the Yale School of Forestry and Environment, and Jason Jay, director of the sustainability initiative at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  I met Grant at the GreenBiz Forum 2015, where we entered into an interesting conversation and meeting of the minds.

These Glowing Tubes Turn Trash Collection Into A Competitive Data Viz Game

Read the full story in Fast Company.

One of the most annoying (and disgusting) aspects of organizing a music festival is dealing with the mounds of trash left on the ground afterwards. By turning the process of throwing away trash into a competitive game, a new social design project called Wecup may well be the best way to get thousands of drunk people to stop littering so much.

Workshop: Saving Water Through Behavior Changing Technologies

April 29-30, 2015
Argonne National Laboratory
For more information

This workshop will bring together experts in water efficiency, behavioral sciences, design, engineering and other fields, along with commercial developers, focusing on those who can most contribute to the design, development and dissemination of  behavior-changing  technologies that reduce water consumption for buildings.

The agenda will include presentations from thought-leaders in these fields and discussion sessions focused on key topic areas including, but not limited to, new technologies under development, key research paths, barriers to advancement, and opportunities for deployment.


The purpose of this workshop is to promote discussion and collaboration between stakeholders who have a wide range of different experience with water-related issues.  The agenda will be structured around four primary sessions, with each session consisting of three components:

  1. A short presentation from an expert in the field to motivate discussion.
  2. 3-4 concurrent breakout sessions where attendees will discuss relevant topics in an open and informal setting.
  3. Reconvening of the larger group, with each breakout session presenting a brief overview of their discussion and findings.

The Socio-Demographic and Psychological Predictors of Residential Energy Consumption: A Comprehensive Review

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This article provides a comprehensive review of theory and research on the individual-level predictors of household energy usage. Drawing on literature from across the social sciences, we examine two broad categories of variables that have been identified as potentially important for explaining variability in energy consumption and conservation: socio-demographic factors (e.g., income, employment status, dwelling type/size, home ownership, household size, stage of family life cycle) and psychological factors (e.g., beliefs and attitudes, motives and intentions, perceived behavioral control, cost-benefit appraisals, personal and social norms). Despite an expanding literature, we find that empirical evidence of the impact of these variables has been far from consistent and conclusive to date. Such inconsistency poses challenges for drawing generalizable conclusions, and underscores the complexity of consumer behavior in this domain. In this article, we propose that a multitude of factors–whether directly, indirectly, or in interaction–influence how householders consume and conserve energy. Theory, research and practice can be greatly advanced by understanding what these factors are, and how, when, where, why and for whom they operate. We conclude by outlining some important practical implications for policymakers and directions for future research.

How VWR has built a successful employee engagement program

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Sustainability manager Megan Maltenfort at the pharmaceutical supply company VWR knew her sustainability engagement programs were taking a turn for the better when a senior vice president in the company came running up to her, waving his arms.

“I got 100 percent!… I got 100 percent!,” the executive shouted. He had just completed a short assessment in an interactive online learning program about how sustainability impacts VWR’s business and how employees can help shape future initiatives at the company.

Earlier, Maltenfort and her colleagues had used a variety of methods to reach out and encourage greater participation and support for sustainability initiatives, but found they were facing an uphill battle. Now the tide had turned, and employees, managers and executives across the organization were coming to them.

Lessons from history: why what we say about sustainability matters

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The genius of the progressive intellectuals in late-nineteenth century America was that they didn’t invent new labels. Instead, they sought to subtly shift the definition of keywords that already resonated with the public. In their hands, individualism went from being shorthand for an absolute adherence to the doctrine of laissez faire government to being an argument for an activist state in certain areas. They managed this trick by arguing that the over-concentration of power and wealth was holding individuals back from fulfilling their full potential. Surely, they said, an individualistic society is one in which self-fulfilment is attainable for all…

Today’s battle for the heart and soul of business will be won not by inventing new and unfamiliar labels, but by changing the ideological content of the corporate world’s core vocabulary. Rightly or wrongly, the terms ‘sustainability’, ‘social responsibility’ and ‘corporate citizenship’ have a negative connotation in the eyes of many businesspeople, just as socialism had for the American electorate in 1900. The progressives didn’t change people’s mind about socialism, but they did manage to convince them to swallow many aspects of a socialist agenda by making their case in language the public already understood.

Beyond the CFL: Winning Images for Energy Efficiency

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Which images work best to get people excited about energy efficiency? More importantly, what kind of images inspire people to take action to save energy and support policies that drive energy savings? Resource Media’s research into energy efficiency visuals suggests several strategies to make energy efficiency imagery more appealing, inspiring and engaging.

The research demonstrates that:

  • Visuals are a powerful way to motivate people to take action in support of energy efficiency—whether through improvements in their own home, or through support for policies.
  • The best images are those that show real people doing tangible things to save energy in their homes and businesses.