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4.4.2 Health-Related Models

An early model designed to help researchers and practitioners understand and promote healthy behaviors provides several concepts potentially useful in promoting sustainability-related initiatives. The health belief model was developed in the 1950s by social psychologists at the US Public Health Service and updated in 1988. It remains one of the most widely used theories in health behavior research. The model identifies perceived seriousness, perceived susceptibility, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, perceived threat, self-efficacy, and cues to action as influences on an individual's likelihood of engaging in a particular health-promoting behavior. We may intend to engage in a new behavior but simply forget because it is not habitual. Therefore, behavioral cues are especially important. Cues can be internal (e.g., pain, emotional distress) or external (e.g., information from important others, signage). Self-efficacy was added to the model in 1988. Although this model was designed to influence a different set of individual-level behaviors, it reminds us to work to increase an individual's self-efficacy and to provide behavioral cues.

Behavioral Cues at the University of Colorado, Boulder Campus On-location cues are used extensively on the University of Colorado, Boulder, according to Moe Tabrizi, former Assistant Director of Engineering and Campus Sustainability Director. He told me:

You can't walk around our campus without seeing a poster or sticker on the light switch. Whether they are intended for laboratories or the data center or just turning the lights off, reporting water leaks and so forth, those are our attempts to impact or influence the behavior of our students, staff and faculty.

I asked him to comment on the success of such signage, and he provided some anecdotal evidence saying:

For example, in large classrooms where we did not have any posters or stickers or messaging to prompt people to turn off the lights or turn off the computers, a certain percentage of the lights were left on. In contrast, when you have those messaging, posters and stickers, 60–70 % of the lights were turned off after the class. So that is a good indication that message is being heard. When you place a poster in a laboratory research building and you let the researcher know that the fume hood is using three times as much energy as an average home you get a lot of feedback from the faculty member, who says, 'I have been teaching chemistry or researching in biochemistry and I never knew that. Thanks for telling me and I will make sure my students are closing the sash going forward.' So that's pretty good reinforcement [that the messaging campaign is working].

As I prepared to leave his office, Moe gave me copies of stickers they had placed across campus and a pledge card they had used. I describe this communication material in detail in hopes sustainability coordinators will find the information useful. Light switch stickers were blue with yellow letters, measured 2.500 by 100, and included a graphic of the globe and the words “Please turn off the lights when you leave,” “Turn off climate change,” or “Report energy and water waste (phone number) (hotline reporting website address).” A similar sticker read “See a water leak or energy waste? Report it!” and “You can turn off climate change” and provided the phone number and hotline website information. These messages capture attention through their use of color the first time someone sees them and function as an unconscious heuristic thereafter. The use of the word please is a politeness strategy designed to minimize the negative face threat of the command. People were told their initial action could make a difference and their assistance was solicited as monitors of potential waste providing them with a secondary action they could take. Signage for the bathrooms announced the new water-saving toilets and provided a graphic showing people how to use them. How-to information influences self-efficacy. The prefolded yellow 8.500 by 5.500 pledge card was part of a 2003 campaign. The top half of the detachable card asked people to make a pledge to reduce energy use, provided them with four sample actions and told what impact each made in terms of conservation percent (e.g., “Screen savers do not save energy. Enable the sleep mode in your PC monitor and two others (saves 2 %)”), and directed them to a website for more suggestions. A Ghandi quote told the reader, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The bottom half told them their signature would result in the Vice Chancellor of Administration committing $5 to energy conservation/renewable energy projects on campus. Under the message “I commit to reducing my CU-Boulder campus energy usage by 10 % by taking actions such as those listed above,” there was a place for people to sign and indicate if they were students, faculty, or staff. The bottom half of the card was preaddressed on one side and could be dropped in campus mail. Looking at the pledge card as a message, people were asked to pledge, told how to participate, provided with actions they might take, given information regarding the action's significance, and asked to take an initial commitment-related action by signing the card. The top half of the card could be kept as a reminder for alternative actions they might take.

The transtheoretical model of behavior change was developed by Prochaska and

colleagues beginning in 1977 and is another dominant model for those interested in health-related behavioral change. Individuals are at different stages in their readiness to engage in a recommended behavior. The model assesses an individual's readiness to act and provides information on how to guide the individual through ten stages of change. The stages of change include precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. At each stage, the theory includes strategies communicators can use with the target audience. For example, during the precontemplation stage, people should be encouraged to become more mindful about their decision making and reminded of the multiple benefits of changing their behaviors. Activities designed to help people move through the stages include consciousness raising, selfand environmental reevaluation, selfand environmental liberation, contingency management, and helping relationships (Silk 2009). Within the context of pro-environmental behaviors, this stage model reminds us to assess where our target individuals are in the process of adopting new behaviors and to think strategically about the pro-environmental messages they are receiving. Interventions are more effective if they match an individual's stage of change. As people move toward action, they rely more on commitments, conditioning, environmental controls, and support. So practitioners interested in changing individual behaviors need to secure commitments and create opportunities for people who are adopting new behaviors to receive social support from peers. Staats et al. (2004) use that approach in their design of an intervention package which combined information, feedback, and social support to improve pro-environmental household behavior. Their intervention included group discussions, block captains, information received from friends, and commitments such as pledges. In Sect. you will read about how Walmart makes social support available to associates who are interested in creating their own personal sustainability projects.

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