Imagine a world in which citizens in every community, from tiny rural enclaves to metropolises, put sustainability on an equal footing with technology and public safety, in which business leaders speak as passionately about sustainability as they do taxes and profits, and in which everyone actively works towards upholding sustainability in their community.
In that world, we would be on the path to stabilizing the climate, while stewarding the earth’s bounty to nourish communities that are just, inclusive, and equitable – as well as resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
If this sounds so ideal, why is that world not our reality today?
It’s not that we have to solve complex problems to get there – we have done so for millennia.
It’s not that we lack the desire to change – numerous surveys, including those from PEW and Yale, reveal that the majority of people care about the planet and are worried about climate change.
It’s not ignorance about solutions – bookshelves groan under the weight of studies documenting solutions.
It’s not for lack of effort – hundreds of organizations are deploying strategies to promote sustainability.
Many current models of environmental change posit that raising awareness and building skills are the essential ingredients to behavior and systems change. However, this thinking is analogous to the assumption that just because people know how to eat healthy and exercise – and understand the benefits of these behaviors – that they will do so. In practice, initiatives that seek to only educate or raise awareness often fail – wasting resources and precious time – or worse – leading to reactance and solidifying the very behavior we are trying to change. Teen drug use increased after numerous PSAs that ignored the most basic principles (of norms) that we at RS ensure are built into every project.
We know that a sustainable future is more in reach than many think. What lies at the center of environmental problems like climate change and plastic pollution is human behavior. We can transform society so that environmental behavior is automatic, and so that the earth, health, justice, and empathy come first. The keys are in behavior science, systems thinking, and design thinking.
We know transformational shifts in behavior are possible because they are already happening – often for nefarious reasons. Fast fashion, for example, has shifted cultural norms from appreciating durable and long-lasting apparel to a constant desire for the next new and shiny piece at the expense of the environment. Recent political leaders have profoundly changed behavioral norms, sometimes in a very short period of time.
Our mission at Root Solutions is to transform our world for the better – by equipping conservationists and policymakers with the tools to increase the effectiveness of their essential work. This is why, in addition to partnering with and offering training to sustainability professionals, we wrote Making Shift Happen: Designing for Successful Environmental Behavior Change. Our book is an A to Z guide of our entire process, designed to help equip sustainability professionals with the tools needed to move toward a healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable world.
Where are you experiencing challenges? We can help you make shift happen.