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Culture of Sustainability and Engagement in Sustainability

There is a growing recognition that a successful transition toward sustainability cannot rely on technological innovation alone but also requires the engagement of people in a new culture of sustainability. The predominant approaches to promoting conservation and environmental sustainability have been based on psychological behaviour change models that have some important limitations. Our team is developing and testing a different approach building upon theories and principles of community psychology and literature on civic, workplace and youth engagement.

The proposed engagement strategies take a more comprehensive approach than traditional behaviour change models. Traditional behaviour change models tend to be overly individualistic, are targeted towards a single behaviour, often manipulative to the target group, and effects are often short-lived. An engagement approach applies system thinking and focuses on developing a culture of sustainability (COS). A positive COS is characterized by shared values, norms, language, and practices focused on making individual and societal choices that foster social, economic and environmental sustainability. COS can be explored and fostered within organizations, buildings or communities.

Besides developing and testing the engagement strategy, our team is also developing scales to reliably assess engagement in and culture of environmental sustainability.



  • Matthews L, Lynes J, Riemer M., Del Matto T, Cloet N. (2017). Do we have a car for you? Encouraging the update of electric vehicles at point of sale. Energy Policy, 100, 79-88.
  • Riemer, M. & Schweizer-Ries, P. (2012). Psychology and sustainability science: Complexity, normativity, and transdisciplinarity in meeting sustainability challenges Umweltpsychologie, 16(1),143-165.
  • Carrico, A.R. & Riemer, M. (2011). Motivating energy conservation in the workplace: An evaluation of the use of group-level feedback and peer education. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31(1), 1-13. (2/2).

Presentations and Talks

  • Munger, F., Riemer, M., & Reich, S. (2011). At the tipping point: Community psychology’s role in moving toward a more sustainable and just world. 13th Biennial Conference of the Society for Community Research and Action (Division 27 of the American Psychological Association), Chicago, Illinois, June 16-19.
  • Munger, F. & Riemer, M. (2010). Just and sustainable communities: Community Psychology, environmental justice, and urban planning. Paper presented at the 3rd International Conference of Community Psychology, Puebla, Mexico, June 3-5, 2010.
  • Carrico, A. & Riemer, M. (2009). Motivating pro-environmental behavior in and organizational setting: The use of feedback and peer education to reduce energy use. Paper presented at the Behavior Energy & Climate Change conference, Washington, DC. Nov 15-18, 2009
  • Riemer, M. (2009). Creating environmental change from the bottom-up. Poster presented at the 12th Biennial Conference for the Society for Community Research and Action, Montclair, NJ.
  • Riemer, M. & Reich, S. (2009). Research in the cross-section of community psychology and global climate change: A call for action. Roundtable discussion at the 12th Biennial Conference for the Society for Community Research and Action, Montclair, NJ.
  • Carrico, A. & Riemer, M. (2008). Towards an evidence-based approach to environmental behavior change programs: A case study of Vanderbilt’s “ThinkOne” energy conservation campaign. Paper presented at the Behavior Energy & Climate Change conference, Sacramento, CA.

Contact Us:

T: 519.884.0710 x2982
Office Location: Evolv1 Building 420 Wes Graham Way Suite #102 Waterloo, ON N2L 0J6

Office Hours:

We are currently working remotely.