Behaviour change with environmental-friendly habits at home

By Fabiola Monty

This post originally appeared on the Medium, and is republished here with permission.

Lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has prompted many organisations and individuals to re-think how they practice daily activities and adapt to a virtual environment.

For conservationists and also nature lovers, being mostly confined at home limits active involvement in biodiversity conservation and options to be outdoors in nature.

Along this line, a regional leg of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) recently held a webinar for members from the Eastern and Southern African region to discuss behaviour change and the adoption of environmental-friendly habits. The discussions and tips shared provided an opportunity to reflect on our own behaviour and to aspire to be better advocates for nature. These are also no doubt relevant beyond lockdown.

Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

The ABC of behaviour change

The first part of the webinar was led by Peter Paul van Kempen, psychologist and co-founder of, “an expertise platform on

communication and human behaviour change for conservation and sustainable development.”

Peter advised that the best initial approach is to focus on small behaviours first as these have greater chances of being successful and transformative in the long term. And he proposed a three-step way to start with (1) an anchor, (2) a specific behaviour and (3) a celebration (ABC):

· Anchor: this can be any routine in our daily activity which will be linked to any new behaviour that we wish to adopt. This for example can be opening the window, brushing teeth, eating etc.

· Behaviour: this is the behaviour that we select to change or adopt during our anchor

· Celebration: this involve finding a celebration to gift ourselves with a positive emotion after putting our selected behaviour in practice. This for example can be a short dance.

As explained by Peter, emotion is an important component of behaviour change. Researchers from Stanford University have indeed found that emotions create habit. Associating a specific behaviour with a positive feeling indeed makes it easier for us to repeat said behaviour.

Tiny habits and projects

Plastic bottles can also be re-used in the garden for growing plants. © Fabiola Monty

Plastic bottles can also be re-used in the garden for growing plants. © Fabiola Monty

Linking up with Peter’s suggestions, Margaret Otieno (Regional Vice Chair, Eastern and Southern Africa) proposed some concrete tiny habits that one can adopt as well as small projects to help maintain a connection with nature:

· Individual water audit: to make small changes in our water use to reduce water wastage e.g. by taking shorter showers, turning off taps when not in use e.g. when brushing teeth etc.

· Creating a list of birds that visit your home

· DIY and upcycling: for example, using plastic bottles to create bird feeders

Now how about starting with one small habit at a time and inspire others around us to follow?


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