Energy Conscious Behaviour

 

This short analysis on what would drive sustainable behaviour includes a short revision of antecedents to energy-efficient/pro-environmental behavioural intentions and these intentions in an interplay with possible behavioural implications.

Sustainable Behaviour Economics

Despite there having been amendments of the framework, the classical Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) and Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) as developed by Azjen and Fishbein (1975; 1980) explain how we form behavioural intentions from (1) attitudes, (2) subjective norms, and (3) perceived behavioural control (originating from self-efficacy theory).  Although TPB was developed based on TRA, for the purpose of his paper, we are going stick with the TPB. Using the model of TPB has accounted for around 1/3 of variance in actual behaviour (Armitage & Conner, 2001). By 2006, Conner has added two more variables in predicting behavioural intentions that I believe are relevant for this short investigation: (4) Anticipated Regret and (5) Moral Climate. Adding Anticipated Regret has been supported by Sandberg and Conner (2008). Other studies have shown that Moral Intensity has a moderating effect on environmental decision making intentions of managers (Flannery & May, 1999). A more recent study has seen Moral Norms as explaining 39% and 41% in recycling intentions and actual recycling behaviour (Chan & Bishop, 2013).

Although global warming, to some extent, does or will harm our health, the support of predictive power of the TPB model towards health-related behavioural intentions (Armitage & Conner, 2001) is not enough. A study on charitable behavioural intentions, shows the use of the TPB with moral norms, attitudes, perceived behavioral control and past behaviour significantly explaining around 70% of variance in charitable intent (van der Linden, 2011); the reason I bring charitable intent forward is that despite the idea that global warming represents a threat, it is a probable future threat, because individuals tend to discount future (Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team, 2011), which may probably not affect most humans – currently living – in any direct way. Hence, one may (as well) regard it more as a charitable behaviour, given the adequate queues, for individuals to reciprocate onto sustainable behaviour.

We shall just recognise some of the above (underlined) antecedents.

So what hinders us from saving our planet and our future selves?

Gifford (2011) claims that structural barriers like climate-averse infrastructure are to be removed wherever possible, but he himself believes this to be not sufficient either. He expands and says that psychological barriers also “impede behavioural choices that would facilitate mitigation, adaptation, and environmental sustainability”. Furthermore, he identifies the following 7 psychological barriers:

  1. limited cognition about the problem,
  2. ideological worldviews that tend to preclude pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour,
  3. comparisons with key other people,
  4. lower costs and behavioral momentum,
  5. discredence toward experts and authorities,
  6. perceived risks of change, and
  7. positive but inadequate behavior change.

A report by the British government has seen the following three barriers to energy efficient or pro-environmental behaviour:

  1. discounting the future,
  2. social norms, and
  3. defaults.

The barrier between environmental concern and pro-environemnetal behaviour was also well summarised by Blake’s Value Action Gap  from 1999 [reproduced from Kolmuss and Agyeman (2002)]:

 

Sure, benefits of pro-environmental behaviour are accrued over a long period of time and the costs associated with such behaviour performed now, are considered large. Because people who prefer smaller rewards today rather than larger rewards in the future, are they not being selfish? The idea is that a small reward now will benefit oneself in form of immediate cost-savings or personal ‘feel-goods’ and whatever little effect it has towards the outside world in the long-term, than larger pro-environmental commitments ensuring a smoother future for our children and children’s children extending itself to outer personal spheres. Well the preference of committing to a large-scale effort now, so that one’s children have it easier, may also be considered a personal preference, and hence also, selfish; but I reckon, considerably less than the former. Its says on the webpage of the EU commission for environment: “Sustainable Development stands for meeting the needs of present generations without jeopardizing the ability of futures generations to meet their own needs…” (EC, 2015). Here you have it. But some of us being very rational individuals, especially when it comes to being more energy efficient, one tends to objectively weigh costs and benefits – in the short-term – of investing precious resources like time and money into something to make our homes and lives more ‘green’ (Jackson, 2007). On the one hand there is a need of behavioural change without a 3rd-party reward system, like a voluntary behaviour change method that is “a change that occurs when individuals make choices for personal reward without a top-down mechanism, regulation of any sort, or a feeling of external compulsion” (Ampt, 2003), on the other hand, for those receptive to authoritarian methods, 3rd-party/government-led, top-down regulated measures are needed. For either methods, social marketing can be powerful.

To view some powerful guerrilla, spoof, digital or print social marketing ads, visit my Pinterest Board for Social Marketing. Models and theories and their uses in regard to behavioural change can be found here.

Either way, the barriers seem to match with the antecedents to behavioural intentions. We have attitudes that reflect concern but not enough for behaviour; we have subjective norms (that are based on our beliefs) influenced by social norms that promote other ideological views; we have the lack of perceived behavioural control and self-efficacy about pro-evironmental behaviour, firstly because we perceive our actions are futile, and secondly because we don’t believe to have the ability or other resources to achieve difference; we have anticipated regret of too much resources used without visible benefits; we do have past behaviours that wouldn’t reflect a very energy efficient use questioning the impact of a change in behaviour now; we do however have a moral climate that would suggest pro-environmental behaviour. At the end of the day, it seems to come down to, how your were raised, with whom you spend your social time, and mainly, how much resources you have available. Assuming some of these conditions are a given, let’s look at some sustainable energy systems.

Sustainable Energy Systems

Sustainable energy sources are now a constant buzz in the global community. But what  are they exactly?

All of this started to flourish when we ‘put a hole’ in the ozone layer, and greenhouse gases started to affect our climate. Read more about this in my previous blog post about global warming. Soon the idea of not pushing the (natural and already elevated) greenhouse effect even more through human activity (such as burning fossil fuels or deforestation) became more integral to our survival on this planet. This is when we came up with alternative, sustainable and/or renewable energy sources and systems. Following are the most prevalent:

  1. Anaerobic digestion: chemical dissolution of biodegradable material by bacteria
  2. Biofuels: is fuel that is derived from biological or organic materials
  3. Biomass: biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms
  4. Geothermal power: steam from reservoirs below the Earth’s surface
  5. Hydroelectricity: hydropower/gravitational force of falling or flowing water
  6. Solar energy: radiant light and heat from the sun
  7. Tidal power: hydropower that converts the energy of tides
  8. Wave power: transport of energy by ocean surface waves
  9. Wind power: extracted from air flow using wind turbines

Heat energy from modern renewable energy sources (like heat pumps, solar water heating, etc.) accounted for an approximate 4.2% of total final energy use; hydropower made up about 3.8%, and an estimated 2% was provided by power from wind, other solar sources, geothermal, and biomass, as well as by biofuels (REN21, 2014). Most of these energy systems are being technologically enhance day-by-day as we move forward towards an all renewable energy future. But we have a long way to go. The majority of our energy worldwide is still produced in power stations that burn coal, oil, and natural gases (all fossil fuels by the way) and some even from nuclear. But it’s not all bad news. An staggering 19% of all energy produced in 2012 was from renewable energy sources (10% modern, and  9% from biomass) and a 138 countries have policies in favour of renewable energy systems in place (REN21, 2014). Then again 2011 was a good year for investments into sustainable energy systems. This interactive map shows the  IEA/IRENA renewable energy sourcing targets for 2020 by country.

As previously mentioned, the removal of climate-averse infrastructure (like power plants) is one thing, but pro-active incentivising of (government) initiatives, tax-reductions, classroom based recycling, etc., are another must to fulfil the increasing demand of people to be sustainable. In the UK, The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme attempts to encourage people to be ‘green’ in their homes with the installation of renewable heating systems (Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team, 2011). The government could also force architects/civil engineers to comply with building regulatory instructions to build more insulated walls and buildings to preserve/deflect temperatures based on season. There are ways to employ top-down approaches to get individuals and business to behave more pro-environmentally, but many are seen as traditional methods and are looked down upon . These days, the individual man or woman and businesses have a lot more power.

What about on an individual level? Ever thought of getting solar panels fitted bags with charging stations inside? What about the fairphone instead of an iPhone? Did you count how many times Apple has changed their equipment, chargers inlets and other features not compatible with the very next version? Do buy at least a hybrid vehicle if not an electrical one, if the infrastructure of your city/community allows it. What about installing LED bulbs instead of incandescent ones? The latter are about 10 times more carbon emitting.  Or you could use a smartphone application like Green Outlet to estimate energy costs at home or other apps to control your thermostats at home. Are you sharing your processing power with super computers that are using the idle power to compute large data in fighting AIDS, cancer and space exploration? It seems almost that human curiosity and the need to know what lies beyond (what we even can grasp), and what follows current technological development, is very eminent, almost to an extent it being unbearable. We probably know more about the vastness of the observable universe – observable being the word – than the vast depths of our oceans. Do you realise how much energy is going into the development of new things, instead of stilling global hunger, defeating extreme poverty, beating cancer once and for all, or tackling the climate crisis?

The next post discusses Portable Technologies and Sustainability.


Works Cited

Ampt, E. (2003). Sustainable Development through Voluntary Behaviour Change. Travel Behaviour Research. Adelaide. Retrieved from http://helios.qwer.tk/~puk/wb/pdf/Sustainable_Development-Behaviour_Change.pdf

Armitage, C. J., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the Theory of Planned Behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40(4), 471–499. http://doi.org/10.1348/014466601164939

Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team. (2011). Behaviour Change and Energy Use. London. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48123/2135-behaviour-change-and-energy-use.pdf

Chan, L., & Bishop, B. (2013). A moral basis for recycling: Extending the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 96–102. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.07.010

EC. (2015). Sustainable Development – Environment. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/

Flannery, B. L., & May, D. R. (1999). AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF THE EFFECT OF MORAL INTENSITY ON ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICAL DECISION MAKING. Academy of Management Proceedings, 1999(1), B1–B6. http://doi.org/10.5465/APBPP.1999.27628081

Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. American Psychologist, 66(4), 290–302. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0023566

Jackson, T. (2007). Motivating Sustainable Consumption: A Review of Evidence on Consumer Behaviour and Behavioural Change. London. Retrieved from http://www.sustainablelifestyles.ac.uk/sites/default/files/motivating_sc_final.pdf

Kollmuss, A. and Agyeman, J. (2002). Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour? Environmental Education Research, 8(3): 239–60.

REN21. (2014). RENEWABLES 2014 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT. Paris. Retrieved from http://www.ren21.net/Portals/0/documents/Resources/GSR/2014/GSR2014_KeyFindings_low res.pdf

Sandberg, T., & Conner, M. (2008). Anticipated regret as an additionalpredictor in the theoryofplanned behaviour:A meta-analysis. British Journal of Social Psychology, 47(4), 589–606. http://doi.org/10.1348/014466607X258704

van der Linden, S. (2011). Charitable Intent: A Moral or Social Construct? A Revised Theory of Planned Behavior Model. Current Psychology, 30(4), 355–374. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-011-9122-1

To be more healthy at the Computer

 



What to do to be more healthy and time-efficient when working extensively at the computer:

Whether holding an IT seat at an incumbent software corporation, working from home as a blogger, or as a researcher writing up for the next publication, most of us have experienced the aches of a sedentary working environment.

As a very health-conscious scientist, I was merely researching on what to consider when wanting to spend another day in front of the screen, before going from back pain to being a hunchback or from needing glassed to needing an eye operation. Consider following measures on two very important aspects:

 


Positioning and Pacing :

So science says you should get up every now and then. And this is about every 20 minutes after sitting (O’Sullivan et al. 2002). My previous – tiny- post mentioned the benefits of general physical activity on a daily basis. That is, contracting muscles, increasing blood flow, and increasing the intake of oxygen are very basic steps to prevent long-term damage to body and mind. So the best thing to do is to get up, go and get some fresh air and stretch a little every 20 minutes, this does even improve your engagement and concentration thereinafter (Griswold, 2012). This can be partially achieved by inhaling slower and deeper from time to time. Or try more agile things to sit on such a swopper, a Classic Balance Ball® Chair, or just a gymnastic ball. You may also want to try getting standing station/desk if that should fit you better. The idea is that u may be more inclined to move being solely on your feet rather than leaning your back, sitting on your buttocks and resting your feet – the state of resting on a chair. However, the same thoughts count for either: Sway standing and slump sitting will both affect the activation – or rather the lack of – certain muscles (i.e. lumbopelvic stabilising musculature) that prevail when a healthy optimally aligned, erect postures is adopted (O’Sullivan et al., 2002). So whether standing or sitting, a straight back, 90-degrees elbow towards the keyboard and looking at the screen in a straight horizontal line (to a few inches lower) is probably best. Branded wearable wrist bands such as the Fitbit, Jawbone UP or Misfit models, may help remind you of, or keep track of idle and active periods so you may macing effectively; and linked with a smartphone this becomes a powerful fitness and well-being coach. Give it a try if you feel it would be of help.



Sensing light and Reading :

A lot of strain to being long hours in front of a screen is also caused by a number of factors that involve our visual sensory organs. Here are some tips:

Blink often, roll your eyes and look away from the screen once in a while. As the focus and the position of the eye changes the optical muscles can relax. This is, as with limbs, something you should do regularly.

Use computer in an adequately lit room. Overhead light, sunlight and screen light, find a suitable average that is comfortable; and sometimes what is required to see what needs to be seen maybe just half the light. Fluorescent lighting in the room can be appropriate during day time, but see they don’t hit you or your screen directly. Avoid glare at any point, it is a strain to filter through ‘additional information’. You may want adjust your screen brightness to a smiler intensity and brightness to that of your environment. The app f.lux can be downloaded for free is a simple programme that adjusts the colour temperature of the computer to simulate day and night time lighting. F.Lux, and similar apps, dim the screen and give it a orange touch (i.e. longer wavelength hues at around 2500K) based on your location/timezone, not only for long-term viewing comfort, but also taking into account the time of the day so it reflects a healthy sleeping and waking pattern. While ‘bright’, blue light at 6500K is linked with enhanced cognitive performance (i.e. positively relates to alertness) (Chellappa, 2011), it also causes the suppression of Melatonin (the sleep-promoting hormone) (Chan, 2014), which correlates with diseases such as cancer (Wood et al., 2013). Light is also not only sensed by our eyes, but also by our largest organ: the skin. Hence, both skin and eyes sensing fluorescent or too bright light in the evening or during the night gives the body the impression it is in fact day.



There are ways to ease reading or writing: Use bigger fonts, higher contrast backgrounds to write on, and use the reader function of your browser or the page itself.

And I can’t emphasise the need for keeping your body hydrated. High levels of brain activity and stress at work requires you to drink lots of water (and/or other healthy fluid substances like a glass of fresh juice). The best thing probably to do is to keep your own mug or glass and jug always at your working station; get them filled right before you start your endless marathon.

Last but not least, be social a few times a day. You are not alone in this. And a little break once in a while chatting with a friend is not harmful. And if your boss may think otherwise, suggest him or her what it mean to be efficient at work. Don’t get fired though.

My general base for benchmarking is as always: “What would be the reality if I’d have lived 1000s of years ago”? Move a lot and dimmed light in the evening seems reasonable. Mingling, taking a break and quenching your thirst ought to be done anyway. Maybe, do not sit at a computer all day long. Get up say “hi” to your neighbour and enjoy life people.


 

Sources:

Chang, A.-M., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J. F., & Czeisler, C. A. (2014). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(4), 201418490. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112

Chellappa, S. L., Steiner, R., Blattner, P., Oelhafen, P., Götz, T., & Cajochen, C. (2011). Non-visual effects of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance: can blue-enriched light keep us alert? PloS One, 6(1), e16429. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016429

Dunstan, D. W., Kingwell, B. A., Larsen, R., Healy, G. N., Cerin, E., Hamilton, M. T., … Owen, N. (2012). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), 976–83. http://doi.org/10.2337/dc11-1931

Griswold, A. (2012). To Work Better, Just Get Up From Your Desk. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alisongriswold/2012/06/12/to-work-better-just-get-up-from-your-desk/

O’Sullivan, P. B., Grahamslaw, K. M., Kendell, M., Lapenskie, S. C., Möller, N. E., & Richards, K. V. (2002). The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activity in a pain-free population. Spine, 27(11), 1238–1244. http://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-200206010-00019

Wood, B., Rea, M. S., Plitnick, B., & Figueiro, M. G. (2013). Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Ergonomics, 44(2), 237–40. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2012.07.008

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