Saving the environment… as a Psychologist?

Saving the environment as a psychologist, but how? You often hear about all the new, more sustainable technologies that are developed to fight against climate change. As a psychologist, it is difficult to create a wider impact in this way - just because you study at a technical university does not automatically mean you are all engineers. So how can you make an impact as a psychologist?

Let’s first look at what sustainability is. Your first association might be “environment” or “recycling”. That is a great start, and there is more to it. According to a model of Boyer et al. (2016), sustainability consists of three components:

-        Social aspects

-        Economic aspects

-        Environment aspects

All three aspects are interrelated and influence each other. It also means that sustainability is not only about the weather or plants, but also about people. Sustainability can be partly viewed as sustained health and wellbeing. This is the first point of impact you can have as a psychologist. Many of you might want to become a Psychotherapist. That is quite close to the social aspect of sustainability already. Helping people cope and deal with their problems is directly working on mental health and wellbeing. Thinking further ahead, helping people improve their wellbeing has the consequence that they potentially have the capacity to care for others and the environment too. In its turn, that has an impact on sustainability.

Changing behavior

Many of you have likely come across methods and models for behavioral change. This is another powerful tool. Changing the attitude of a single person on sustainability can go a long way. If you can convince one person to separate their trash, they will likely continue to do so. Like a chain reaction, they might even encourage others to do so too.

What is very important here is to not push people towards a certain behavior - that will likely just cause resistance. Be open and encourage dialogue - and sometimes you have to accept that the other person does not want to change.

Practical examples to reduce your consumption

But what are behaviors you can change to be more sustainable? As Green Hub Twente, the central contact point for sustainability at the UT, we usually give advice to associations or other organizations. Today we’d like to share some easy tips with you too. In principle, you can do the following:

-        Reduce your consumptions

-        Reuse what you consume where possible

-        Recycle what you cannot reuse

Let’s give a few examples for the first point: reducing your consumption. As a child, you were probably told to turn off the lights whenever you leave a room. For good reason, because acts like these save energy. Have you been studying all day on your laptop and are finally done? Give yourself and your eyes a well-deserved break by turning off your laptop (instead of leaving it on standby) and save energy in the process. The same goes for heating: Grab a warm hoodie and cozy blanket to keep yourself warm instead of turning on the heat to the fullest.

Believe it or not, reducing the number of animal products you consume can help too. You don’t even have to become vegetarian or vegan. Already being more mindful about eating meat or consuming milk has an impact. Maybe start a meat-free day with your housemates or challenge yourself to enjoy an alternative to cow milk.

So, what does this tell us? You can have a big impact on sustainability, even as a psychologist. You can work on the social aspect of sustainability or help change behavior. One way or another: never stop believing that you can have an impact!

If you have any further questions or would like to stay up-to-date about sustainability at the UT, then reach out to us via @greenhubtwente on social media.



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