Beyond individual behaviour change

August 31, 2009

There are many limitations to individual behaviour change in energy use and climate action. These include social dilemmas (uselessness of personal sacrifices if others don't contribute), social conventions (people are not free to chose how they behave), the limitations of existing infrastructures and an overall feeling of helplessness of individuals when faced with the enormity of the climate challenge. 

An article by our team, Low-carbon communities as a context for individual behavioural change, now published in Energy Policy (Articles in Press) examines how various types of low-carbon communities can overcome these problems and support individuals in changing to low-carbon lifestyles. We analyse a local community (Manchester is My Planet, UK), an interest community (Carbonarium, HU), a sector-based community (Green Office, FI) and a smart mob community (Carrotmob, international). We show how they use win-win and assurance solutions to solve social dilemmas, how they challenge existing conventions and create new ones, how they try to create new infrastructures and how they combat helplessness through advice, social support, togetherness, visible results and demonstration that others 'are doing their bit'.