behaviour change education

Accommodating well-being

Deirdre McIntyre is Residential Life Manager at Bangor University.   A geographer with a background in areas of outstanding beauty, waste management, and business development, she is now working to improve the well-being of Bangor’s students.   We talk about encouraging student green movements and think tanks, energy awareness, and waste awareness weeks.   Messaging is key and that means treading a careful line between corporate and fun.

Talking points

Bringing the academic environment into the living environment


Sustainable: The holistic approach to living as a community and to me sustainability at its heart is really about how we educate and develop the students that are living with us, so they leave evolved and prepared for living as citizens of a global community.


Success: Winning multiple sustainability awards over the last few years and engaging with over five thousand students.


Superpower: My ability to enthuse people with my passion for anything I get my teeth into, and

generally dragging anyone along with me.


Activist: Yes, I’m well aware that people never want anything rammed down their throats, and I think that’s why I’m really good at bringing people along with me because the soft persuasion and living your life as an example, that’s how you can be the best activist.  


Motivation: (My four-year-old…) A genuine desire to invigorate other people with my enthusiasm with what I’m doing.


Challenges: Once the dust settles in the department, we can look to a constructive future, I would love to see student engagement and satisfaction featured far more heavily.


Miracle: Make every student positively engage with us at least once.


Advice: Don’t ask for a lighter burden ask for a stronger back


This conversation was made with help of the Sustainability Lab at the Bangor University.

behaviour change communication community

Positive mindful interaction

Dr Liz Shepherd  specialises in sustainability and wellbeing with a particular interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Liz works with Cartrefi Conwy to improve their overall sustainability and improve the energy efficiency of their housing stock as a means of addressing fuel poverty and improving quality of life for tenants.  Liz is also Bangor University’s Campus Environmental Performance Team’s Energy and Water Co-ordinator.  She is resolutely positive towards a transformative future, and we talk about what that would take.


Talking points

The sustainability as “less bad”, without “more good” is not enough.  The world requires a significant change, sustainability has to more revolutionary than that.

We need a transformative level change

The future is bleak without significant change, we’re kidding ourselves with little changes.

Pessimism not a good place to promote change

Nudge and use choice architectures, you should not police

Sustainable: Sustainability is about ensuring that the way we live currently doesn’t have excessive negative impacts on the environment and the people that have to live in it.  Mindful interaction

Success: Writing the sustainability strategy for the Cartrefi Conwy and having it being approved by the board without any need for revision. Another personal achievement was getting a food waste recycling system implemented in the Cartrefi Conwy, which dramatically reduced the amount of food waste going to the landfill.

Superpower: I’d like to think that I am enthusiast and I can make other people enthusiast and things that they weren’t previously enthusiast about, including food waste. (as well as making an awesome cake!)

Activist: No, well I am, but not as much as I think I should be.

Motivation: I believe in the work that we do here, I really enjoy working with the people and meeting and enthusing previously unenthusiastic people, getting people interested in sustainability.

Challenges: Definitely taking on the environmental and energy management for the university, it is a big change for how the university on a whole has managed its environmental impacts. On a personal level it’s not something that i’ve done on such a large scale before, so I see a lot of opportunity for improvement.

Miracle: Firstly, Make everyone vegetarian. Secondly,  find a infinite fuel for everything that we currently use that doesn’t release carbon into the atmosphere and isn’t nuclear.

Advice: Always keep trying no matter what happens, and try and stay positive!



This conversation was made with help of the Sustainability Lab at the Bangor University.

behaviour change maori

Reconnecting to place

Claire Porima

Be curious, be open, allow yourself to have childlike wonder of the world.

Claire Porima is a business and life coach and works with the University of Otago’s Office of Māori Development. She has previously worked for NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade. Recently Claire has led the He Kākano programme
– an innovative kuapapa Māori business and entrepreneurship programme for undergraduate Māori students.

We talk about transformation and explore what sustainability can learn from the journey of discovery of reconnecting with one’s roots.

Talking points

Reconnecting people to a sense of place

The first step is discovering yourself and where you are from.

Kaitiakitanga is rooted in a being so connected to the land, to a place you can return to. This comes with a responsibility, responsibility for that place.

Coaching is a powerful alliance…shining a different light.

(Activist?) I think I take positive action, an advocate for positive change
(Motivation) I’m so motivated by by people who are courageous and taking positive steps towards making positive change in their life – and this has a ripple effect out through their whānau or families and communities.

(Challenges) The challenges I think confront all of us are around creating a greater understanding of things Maori. Of how that can contribute to the development of this country, how it can contribute to the health and well-being of all of the people.

(Miracle) For me a miracle would be for all of us wake up knowing each and every one of us is creative, and resourceful, and powerful, and wise, and talented, and unique, and has the ability to contribute to make change happen in their life in whatever way they can – that would be an amazing miracle. We are all those things, but to know it, and to grab it to know you have the ability to make the changes that you want to see in the world

(Advice) Be curious, be open, allow yourself to have childlike wonder of the world.

behaviour change

Flipping behaviour change

Michael Daddo

No matter what role we have in life, we all have the ability to contribute to changing the world for the better – so we should always look for opportunities to do that and go for it as hard as we can.

The Shannon Company is dedicated to Behaviour Change. Michael Daddo is the Managing Director of the Shannon Company. Before this interview we asked around for some background. “He’s the flipper” said one. So we asked Michael about flipping.

We discuss the application of behaviour change techniques honed in campaigns such as Victorian Worksafe “Homecommings” campaign to wider issues of sustainability.

Talking points:

hope and obligation

I’m just a person with a conscience who can make a difference

Inspiring people to make a change willingly and for good, the more we can do that the better.

The greatest thing we can do is change the world in some shape or form for the better. If we can all find ways to contribute to that, in whatever way we can, then we should do that and seek those opportunities.

behaviour change

The game is engaging people


We want to reach people who have been turned off by the misery messaging

Dr Paula Owen realised during her PhD in atmospheric chemistry that her future in the communication of science. Since then she has made a career in engaging people in the environment, sustainability and behaviour change.

Paula is author of “How Gamification Can Help Your Business Engage in Sustainability” and creator of the Eco Action series of games.

This is the third in a series of four on  the interplay of gaming and sustainability.

This recording was made with the cooperation of the Science Museum in London where Paula and her team were operating a “climate playground” as part of the Climate Change Late.

Update: Here’s Paula’s report “Can we play our way to a more sustainable future?“.

behaviour change computing

Environmental impact of digital transformation

Chris Preist

 Helping people who are motivated by social good to frame it in terms business will understand.

Dr Chris Preist is Reader in Sustainability and Computer Systems at the University of Bristol.  In this role he is working on tools to “bridge the gap”, he hopes to help provide “a way of thinking about their concern for social good, into their professional lives”.

In this conversation we discuss how this came about in Chris’ career, this balance of technical work and deeper – perhaps spiritual – understanding.    He now teaches Sustainability, Technology and Business within a computer science degree.   Rather than a “litany of doom” he sees the courses as presenting ways of thinking about how to integrate social good with professional lives.

Chris and his colleagues are currently exploring crowdsourcing and gamification for the Close the Door campaign.   “Normification” is the key he says, what are the mechanisms for spreading changes of social norm?

He has worked in association with Forum for the Future, working with Guardian News and Media to investigate the environmental impact of their digital transformation, with particular reference to changes in business models and customer behaviour.  Prior to joining Bristol, he was Principal Scientist and Head of UK research on sustainable IT systems at Hewlett Packard Labs (HP Labs), Bristol.  In this role, he led a team of 6 researchers who carried out research assessing the sustainability impacts of alternative business models for the personal computer and digital printing industry, and information management and presentation of sustainability data to enhance decision making.

behaviour change computing media

Transformational Media


A lot of voices when they’re not in unison are just noise, but when they are in unison they can be a chorus.

Beth Karlin is director of the Transformational Media Lab within the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at University of California Irvine.

We talk about social action campaigns, documentary, using new information and communication technology to understand and empower environmental change, and what we can learn from psychological perspectives in communication research.

behaviour change energy

Energetic relationships

Dr Rebecca Ford is a member of the Energy Cultures team at the University of Otago. She gives us an insight into the results of their multi-year study into understanding people’s relationship with energy. They have identified four clusters of energy behaviours: energy economical, energy extravagant, energy efficient and energy easy. Which one of these you fit into is influenced by your material culture (such as what sort of house you live in), your energy practices, social norms and external influences. What motivates change is also different for each group.

In another part of the Energy Cultures study the team examined the critical points in people’s energy change stories. In addition to the drivers of change and attractors (eg new technology being easier), they found that access to the right sort of advice is critical – and the most important influencer is what we get from friends and family. Given the importance of the social network the team has ongoing work is exploring how to ensure that the information on these friends and family networks is reliable. The question then is how to support an ongoing conversation around energy.

Shane’s number of the week: 1.4 Billion. In pounds this is the pretax global profit of trading company Glencore who this week described the worst drought to hit the US since the 1930s will be “good for Glencore” because it will lead to opportunities to exploit soaring prices.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Prompted by an interesting paper by Carlo Fabricatore and Ximena Lopez it is games that engage people in sustainability that concern Sam this week (read more>>>).

behaviour change climate change

Dr Stephen Hill

Despite being an engineer by training, Dr Stephen Hill argues that a sustainable future is one of better social systems, not one of technical fixes.

Within that social system Stephen explores tensions in environmental management. For example, while the history of the environmental movement stems from place based protection, the development of renewable energy is largely motivated by a drive for carbon reduction. This tension comes to a head over proposals for wind farms. While in New Zealand he has been exploring the wind farm debates, and provides insights based on comparison to developments in Canada.

We ask if there a sweet spot between science and environmental policy? and discuss trade offs, social friction, vested interests, and fundamental tensions.

While we can influence and even change behaviours through manipulating markets – carbon pricing etc (and there’s no political appetite for this), the real change comes from changing attitudes. Attitudes, though, Stephen says, change really slowly.

Stephen describes some watershed moments in his career:

  • The earth shattering realisation upon reading the Brundtland report “Our Common Future” of the consquences of the population versus ecosystem services relationship.
  • Going to a talk by Steven Schneieder.
  • Working with Dixon Thompson – environmental management is about managing people.

Shane’s number of the week: 6. That’s six months to plug the leakage of natural gas from the Elgin well off Scotland.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: We’ve talked about externalities before. Most of the impact of our activity isn’t internalised as a direct cost. Now KPMG has calculated how much that is – 41% of value. This means the true cost of a $100 product should be $141. This footprint relative to earnings is getting worse – rising by 50% in the eight years to 2010. It varies by sector too, for electricity; mining, marine and airlines, the unaccounted true cost is more than half the value. For food, the missing environmental cost is more than the value. In reality these costs are not borne by the companies, rather these impacts are carried by others (see full KPMG report).

Trainspotting: We apologise for leading the very optimistic Dr Hill down a line focussing on global problems. We agree – on the optimistic side, humans as a species are very adaptable.

agriculture behaviour change landscape

Dr Janet Stephenson


Janet Stephenson is from Otago University CSAFE.  Janet explores the passions of landscape, the importance and difficulty of behaviour change, the role of the power of influence, and how prosumers are leading the way with visions for energy futures.  With Jacinta Ruru and Mick Abbot, Janet has recently co-edited “Making our Place: Exploring land-use tensions in Aotearoa New Zealand”.


Shane’s number of the week:   68.    68% of the biggest 500 companies in the world are taking action on climate change as part of their business strategy.  This information comes from the 10th Annual Carbon Disclosure Project, and compares with the figure of 48% last year.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Planning is well underway for the Sustainable Lens Election Focus.

behaviour change computing

Mary Barreto

Mary Barreto works with the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute: a collaboration between the University of Madeira, founded by the University of Madeira, Madeira Tecnopolo, and Carnegie Mellon University. Mary is with the SINAIS project, the Sustainable Interaction with social Networks, context Awareness and Innovative Services.

In this web-only feature recorded at CHI2011, Mary talks with Samuel Mann about the ideas from her paper on social translucence.

behaviour change energy power

Dr Paul Thorsnes and…

Energy Cultures – do they exist, how would we find out what they are and how can we change them?

We talk with Paul Thorsnes, Maria Ioannou and Daniel Gnoth about this new area of research.

The three-year Energy Cultures research project has recently begun. Based at CSAFE (Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment) the study aims for a better understanding of household energy consumption behaviours and encouraging behaviour change to more energy efficient technologies.

Headed by OERC members Prof. Rob Lawson, Prof. Gerry Carrington, Dr. Janet Stephenson, and Dr. Paul Thorsnes, the project combines a variety of research specialisations for a multi-disciplinary, multi-method research approach.

Shane’s number of the week: 80% – for just the cost of 1% of GDP the entire world could move to meet 80% of its energy needs from renewable energy resources.


behaviour change counselling

Counselling for social justice

Chris Williamson trained as a counsellor at Otago University through the Masters of Education (Counselling).   He has worked as a counsellor in Dunedin for 15 years.  Chris is currently the Associate Head of School for the School of Social Services at Otago Polytechnic.

In this conversation we talk about the role of the sustainable practitioner in social services – counselling in particular being rooted in rooted in notions of social justice.  Chris describes how the principles of counselling can be applied and extended in the arena of sustainability.  He talks about maintaining practice, mindfulness, and a overwhelming belief that you can make a positive change.    We explore different models including motivational interviewing and solution focusssed therapy with a view to identifying approaches for sustainable behaviour change.

Shane’s number of the week: 350.

350 is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide (in parts per million) in the atmosphere.  As we’re already at 386ppm, then 350 is a target  humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Over the last few days I’ve been exploring how we might promote “not-buying stuff”.  I thought I had hit on it with  a big green button for “impulse sustainability”, but then undid myself with the realisation that we don’t really know what such a button would do – or even if it could (read more>>).