Creating an environmental friendly culture

Tackling climate change will require large scale and sustained collective effort. However, environmental issues are not a priority for many people compared to more immediate concerns in their day-to-day lives. Communities will need to appeal to new residents, and perhaps in some cases educate them, so that 'green' lifestyles become a normal way of life.

Government research has examined the different ways people have responded to environmental messages. It identified six groups within the population as a whole. The six groups were:

  • Positive greens - with high levels of self-reported knowledge. The most likely group to try to influence those around them
  • Waste watchers - whose behaviour is largely driven by an urge to avoid unnecessary wastage and to protect the physical quality of the countryside
    Concerned consumers - who feel some concern for environmental issues and take steps to reduce energy and water usage but who don't tend to change their behaviour in other ways, particularly transport use
  • Sideline supporters - who are concerned about the environment but who tend to assume technological solutions hold the answer. They are unlikely to change their behaviour unless it fits easily into their existing lifestyle
  • Cautious participants - people who, though acknowledging the scale of the issue, tend to feel that their ability to act is undermined by other people and other countries
  • Stalled starters - with largely negative views, believing climate change fears are exaggerated and that there is little they can do to change the situation
  • Honestly disengaged - who lack interest or concern for environmental issues.

Each of these groups have their own opinions about the environment and their own priorities when it comes to changing their own behaviour. They may respond best to environmental campaigns that can highlight the issues they are most concerned with. As such campaigns might be effective by discussing a range of issues, such as reducing costs, reducing waste and protecting the quality of the countryside, along with the need to tackle climate change.

In the case of eco-townsGlossary: are proposed new towns of up to 20,000 homes which are intended to be best-practise examples of environmentally friendly development in particular, it would be expected that a higher proportion of new residents would share a strong commitment to living sustainably. As new developments form it will be useful to build on this enthusiasm so that sustainable behaviour becomes a shared value within the community, and a potential foundation for building social networks.