Researchers at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), a United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) member institution, explored what motivates or discourages people to conserve the environment. The GoGreen project, led by MRU Psychology Institute Prof. Rita Žukauskienė, includes researchers Audra Balundė, Goda Kaniušonytė, Inga Truskauskaitė-Kunevičienė, Lina Jovarauskaitė, Mykolas Simas Poškus, and Oksana Malinauskienė.
The GoGreen project is the first of its kind in the country to systematically study environmentally friendly behavior and the factors that determine its adoption from the perspective of environmental psychology.
The questions it addresses is whether Lithuanians focus solely on socioeconomic concerns rather than environmental protection and how widespread are various environmental conservation practices. In addition, it seeks to find out what motivates people to engage in environmental conservation and whether there are any differences in environmental conservation among adults and youth. The research project was launched to try to address these issues.
The first part of the project consisted of a national survey sent to more than 500 adolescents. Results showed that they engaged relatively similarly in some behaviors, such as picking up their litter when outdoors in nature, purchasing drinks in reusable packaging, and recycling batteries. There were also cases where adolescents engaged in actions such as walking to school, using public transportation, or participating in environmental protection events.
Results also demonstrated that adolescents think protecting nature is essential. These findings suggest that they have strong environmental values and identity that can lead to multiple and meaningful conservation actions. In the second part of the project, the research team looked for ways to encourage youth to conserve the environment. A behavior change program was developed and tested in several schools.
Then, the team replicated the program in a new sample of adolescents, with a focus on use of bottled water. Reusable water canteens were provided to facilitate refilling of bottles. Further, mobile app-based reminders were used as prompts. Every time participants entered information into the app on how much water they drank, they immediately saw how much money they saved and what a positive impact this had on the environment.
The team asked participants to indicate how many bottles of water they purchase each week. Finally, to model behavior and create awareness, a promotional video developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was used. A pilot version of the project increased adolescents' awareness of the consequences of plastic bottle pollution and the need to cut its use. It also increased youngsters feeling that they have control over their bottled water use behavior.
According to the team, affiliated with the Environmental Psychology Research Centre of MRU, it was clear that there was a surge in “participants' moral obligation to refuse bottled water use. In addition, their intentions to do their part were strengthened as well as the habits to drink tap water. There was a decrease in bottled water use. “We believe that results of this project could be interesting to policy makers of countries socioeconomically similar to Lithuania,” they added.
“Young people’s attitudes and behavior will dictate the future shape and look of our societies,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in 2021. It is now more evident than ever before, that we need to change our habits and behaviors to successfully adapt to ecological crises. And to ensure that evidence-based solutions in this sense are effective, we need to consider diverse contexts.
Environmental policies, level of environmental education, and infrastructure readiness vary widely from country to country. Some countries are challenged by social issues more than others, and these factors may prevent people from engaging in environmental conservation. Thus, policymakers need a variety of tools to facilitate transition and engagement in conservation of nature and the environment.
The value systems and views of communities and individuals towards environmental issues vary. Therefore, the motives of why people engage in conservation of the environment also differ.
Click here to learn more about the youth programs and initiatives of UNEP. You can also read UNEP's e-publication, GEO-6 for Youth, written by youth for youth to inform, engage, educate, and lead youth towards environmental action.
(Information supplied by the initiative - United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).)