A friend recently expressed frustration on social media about the numbers of people still using single-use plastic bags when more ethical alternatives are available. This frustration is entirely understandable given the serious environmental damage caused by plastic bags. But will criticising people change anything?
Research in the United Kingdom looked at why the ‘bags for life’ reusable bags program had only a slow uptake despite a consistent ‘saving the environment’ message.
The researchers found that both institutions and individuals have an active amplification role to play in contributing to the eventual embedding of ethical behaviour. Individuals play a signiﬁcant role in encouraging attitudinal change, and institutions are necessary for closing the intention–behaviour gap.
The second contribution is methodological. Rather than asking people to identify the barriers towards the use of ‘bags for life’, they were asked to articulate how they would personally persuade their friends and family to adopt their use. This is important because it identiﬁes the attitude–behaviour gap that persists in their social settings. This will help in future campaign planning.
Why do some ethical behaviours fail to embed, and what can be done about it?