CPT863 - Environmental Behaviours: Citizens, Consumers and Communities

SchoolCardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department CodeGEOPL0
Module CodeCPT863
External Subject CodeF810
Number of Credits20
Language of DeliveryEnglish
Module Leader Professor Mara Miele
SemesterSpring Semester
Academic Year2016/7

Outline Description of Module

Across the globe, governments and environmental groups are calling on the public to change their behaviour in ways that will reduce pressure on the environment. But is it realistic or desirable to put so much pressure on individuals? How does individual behaviour relate to wider social, technological and political contexts? Through this module, students will critically appraise the scope for encouraging people to behave more sustainably. Students are introduced a range of theoretical perspectives that help to understand this issue - including environmental ethics, rational choice theory, practice theories, and ideas of identity and citizenship – and invited to explore them in the context of pressing environmental debates: about personal travel and aviation; waste and consumption; food shopping and domestic energy use. Students will utilise a range of tools for gathering information on personal environmental behaviour, including focus groups and carbon footprint calculating devices. The learning experience is supported by methodological training in the use of reflective field diaries, for which students will be able to make submissions in video as well as in written text. A Field Study Visit project will also form part of this module.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

How the module will be delivered

The module has 30 hours of classroom sessions which will include small units of lectures, workshops and seminars (including focus group discussions), drawing upon video and web-based material. In addition, there will be a one day field study visit

The lectures will set the context for the module, and introduce blocks of theoretical material which will then be used and applied in workshops and focus group work. Engagement with carbon footprint calculation techniques will also feed into the workshops. The study visit  will be used to illuminate debates arising in the lectures, and provide a further basis for reflection.


There will be a two-three hour session each week, supplemented by additional sessions on key topics. The scheduling of all sessions will be made clear in advance. Handouts will be made available for each session, summarising the material covered and suggesting additional reading. Handouts will be posted in advance on Learning Central. Powerpoint presentations will accompany most sessions.


During all sessions, there is an expectation of student input, either individual, or through in-class group work exercises. A key component of the course the series of focus groups that will be organised to discuss aspects of environmental behaviour. Students will be expected to contribute to focus group discussions. Some weeks students will be expected to read and assess written material in advance, or gather some information, which will be used in the following session.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Subject-specific skills:

How the module will be assessed

How the module will be assessed


Students must produce a Reflective Journal  which reflects on their own experiences, thoughts, attitudes and feelings about environmentally sustainable behaviour. It should include reflections on actual decisions they have faced (or indecision), and respond to ideas from the taught sessions, the use of the carbon footprint counter, the background reading, and the methodologies used to explore these issues (such as the focus groups).


The Reflective Journal should be no more than 4000 words. In terms of structure, the blog should consist of six entries, each of approximately 700 words, with each entry having a coherent theme or subject. The key to this task is not description – what you have done or heard – but reflection. This means thinking about the issues you have encountered, the factors that might explain or interpret your behaviour or response, and where your feelings about an issue, or propensity to take action, may have changed, or be firmly resistant to change. Where theoretical concepts from the taught material help you to explain what is happening, you will be expected to use them. Students can include supplementary illustrative material if it supports a point made in the journal – this might include photographs, items on TV or in the print media – which reflect the issues arising with individual environmental action. Students can also submit up to two entries through the medium of video.



Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 100
Relective Journal
N/A 1 N/A

Syllabus content

Students will be introduced to a series of theoretical concepts for interpreting individual environmental behaviour: normative concepts of citizenship and obligation; concepts of identity; rational choice theory; ‘deficit models’ of information provision and their weaknesses; actor network theory and cognate practice-based theories for understanding the relationship between human choices and non-human technologies and systems. Each week these theories will be linked to important environmental issues and the situations in which we encounter them in our daily lives: travel choice and the decision to fly; waste disposal in the home and in other venues; energy consumption in the (extended) domestic context; green identities in mass consumption societies. All sessions are mandatory, and students should bring their own personal reflections to bear on the subject matter

Essential Reading and Resource List

The following provide valuable introductory reading to the module as a whole. Readings will be updated from year to year. More detailed and up-to-date reading lists will be provided to accompany each session, with the most important items indicated, and these will be placed on Learning Central.


Blake J (1999) ‘Overcoming the “value-action gap” in environmental policy’ Local Environment 4(3), 257-278

Burgess J et al (1998) ‘Environmental communication and the cultural politics of citizenship’, Environment and Planning ‘A’ 30(8), 1445-1460.

Chapman, L. (2007) Transport and climate change: a review. Journal of Transport Geography 15, pp. 354-367.

Devine-Wright, P. (2006) ‘Energy citizenship: psychological aspects of evolution in sustainable energy technologies’, in J Murphy (Ed.) Governing Technologies for Sustainability, Earthscan: London.

Dobson A and Bell D eds. (2006) Environmental Citizenship, MIT Press (especially chapter 1, and chapter 3 by Szerszynski, ‘Local landscapes and global belonging’)

Eden S (1993) ‘Individual environmental responsibility and its role in public environmentalism’, Environment and Planning ‘A’ 25(12), 1743-1758

Hayes-Conroy J S and Vanderbeck R M (2005) ‘Ecological identity work in higher education: theoretical perspectives and a case study’, Ethics, Place and Environment 8(3), 309-329.

Hobson K (2003) ‘Thinking habits into action: the role of knowledge and process in questioning household consumption practices’, Local Environment 8(1), 95-112.

Owens S (2000) ‘”Engaging the public”: information and deliberation in environmental policy’, Environment and Planning A 32, pp1-8

Sanne, C. (2002) Willing consumers - or locked-in? Policies for a sustainable consumption. Ecological Economics 42, pp. 273-287.

Shove E (2003) Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience. The Social Organization of Normality, Berg: Oxford.

Söderholm P (ed.) (2010) Environmental Policy and Household Behaviour, London: Earthscan.

Vedung, E (1999) ‘Constructing effective government information campaigns for energy conservation and sustainability: lessons from Sweden’, International Planning Studies, 4(2), 237-252.


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