Handbook of Pro-environmental Behaviour Change. Hear from some of the ACCESS Co-Investigators who contributed chapters to the book

Published on 4 January 2024


ACCESS’s Co-Director, Birgitta Gatersleben is the Co-Editor of the recently published Handbook of Pro-environmental Behaviour Change. She highlights a couple of insights from the book and challenges us to think about what societal behaviour change is needed and how this might look in developing countries.



Birgitta talks about the book and her hopes for future work in this area.


Stewart Barr‘s section looks at how we can promote active travel. Less reliance on private car use will help reduce our environmental footprint. Being active is also good for our health and wellbeing. Using both quantitive and qualitative research techniques his research provides a in-depth understanding of what interventions might be most effective.


Nick Nash and Lorraine Whitmarsh‘s chapter looks at the concept of pro-environmental behavioural spillover.

Nicholas Nash

Lorraine Whitmarsh

Nick explainsThis involves the idea that engagement in one environment-friendly behaviour may catalyse others. The idea of spillover has attracted the attention of environmental psychologists as a way to generate volitional and sustained pro-environmental changes that spread to other parts of the lifestyle. We define a range of spillover effects, discuss the evidence and conditions for these, and review the prospects of spillover as a way to address urgently needed societal transformations.”


Chris Jones focuses on an ESRC funded study called TRANSFER (Trading Approaches to Nurturing Sustainable Consumption in Fashion and Energy Retail).

Chris JonesChris talks about study “The project was designed to look at the factors underpinning people’s fashion and energy shopping behaviours; to evidence areas of overlap and difference, which might provide insight into how to promote more sustainable consumption. We utilised a theory of human cognition called ‘Goal Framing Theory’ (GFT) as a lens for examining the transcripts of focus group discussions about consumer choice in clothes and energy shopping (i.e. shopping for energy tariffs) environments. GFT purports that there are three primary goals that drive our thoughts and actions in different contexts;

1. The hedonic goal drives us towards satisfying our immediate desires (e.g. making impulsive purchases that make us feel good in the moment);

2. The gain goal drives us towards acting in a way that will maximise personal benefit (e.g. resisting impulsive purchases to buy things later when they are on sale);
3. The normative goal drives us towards acting in socially appropriate ways (e.g. paying more for a product that is ethically sourced).

We drew inferences about which of the three goals was most prominent (focal) in discussions about leisure clothes shopping, necessity clothes shopping and energy shopping, and used this analysis to explore how interventions might be designed to promote more consistent sustainable consumer behaviour in these ostensibly very different contexts. We highlight the benefit that identity-centred interventions might have in this regard. Strengthening a person’s identity as a conscientious (e.g. frugal) consumer, could help them to resist the ‘urge to splurge’ and make better, more consistent and more sustainable consumer decisions.”


Melissa Marselle and Sarah Golding‘s chapter looks at the biodiversity crisis and how effective behaviour change interventions can help to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Melissa Marselle

Sarah Golding at the 2023 Summer School at Dartington Hall“Biodiversity of organisms is vital for the health and wellbeing of humans, other organisms and ecosystems – yet biodiversity is declining at dramatic and unprecedented rates. Human activity is often at the root of much of this biodiversity loss – we therefore need effective behaviour change interventions to help halt and reverse these trends.

However, as in many areas of public policy, biodiversity conservation policies are often not rooted in social science theories (Marselle et al., 2020), potentially reducing the effectiveness of interventions.

In our chapter, we outline a psychological framework of behaviour and associated tools (COM-B model and Behaviour Change Wheel) that can be used to help design and specify theory-based behaviour change interventions. Using these frameworks can help us understand:

  • What is the specific behaviour that needs to change?
  • Who needs to change their behaviour? Individuals? Organisations? Governments?
  • What factors might be facilitating or preventing the desired behaviour?
  • How can policy makers intervene to target these factors to more effectively support behavioural change?”

See also Melissa’s webinar Applying the Behaviour Change Wheel to biodiversity policy

The book is available from ElgarOnline.