Practice-ing behaviour change: Applying social practice theory to pro-environmental behaviour change.
Hargreaves, T. (2011). Practice-ing behaviour change: Applying social practice theory to pro-environmental behaviour change. Journal of Consumer Culture 11(1) 79-99.
AbstractThis article applies the insights of social practice theory to the study of pro-
environmental behaviour change through an ethnographic case study (nine months of
participant observation and 38 semi-structured interviews) of a behaviour change ini-
tiative – Environment Champions – that occurred in a workplace. In contrast to con-
ventional, individualistic and rationalist approaches to behaviour change, social practice
theory de-centres individuals from analyses, and turns attention instead towards the
social and collective organization of practices – broad cultural entities that shape indi-
viduals’ perceptions, interpretations and actions within the world. By considering the
planning and delivery of the Environment Champions initiative, the article suggests that
practice theory provides a more holistic and grounded perspective on behaviour change
processes as they occur in situ. In so doing, it offers up a wide range of mundane
footholds for behavioural change, over and above individuals’ attitudes or values.
At the same time, it reveals the profound difficulties encountered in attempts to chal-
lenge and change practices, difficulties that extend far beyond the removal of contextual
‘barriers’ to change and instead implicate the organization of normal everyday life. The
article concludes by considering the benefits and shortcomings of a practice-based
approach emphasizing a need for it to develop a greater understanding of the role of
social interactions and power relations in the grounded performance of practices.