As commercial real estate professionals we are all familiar with the concept of green building, designing a building to consume less natural resources and provide a healthier atmosphere for occupants and the community. But the wild card has always been the building occupants – their attitudes, reactions, and daily habits shape the ultimate performance of a building, even if it’s engineered to the highest standards.
Christie Manning, a professor of Environmental Studies at Macalester College, with assistance from UST Psychology Professor Elise Amel conducted studies funded by the MnPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) to determine exactly what factors influence whether or not individuals choose sustainable behaviors (recycling, reducing energy consumption, biking to work, etc.)
What she found is that social cues play an important role in our emotional responses, which in turn dictate whether or not we will perform a specific behavior. In other words, even though we may rationalize a decision one way (“Sure, I think recycling is important so that we can use less natural resources”), ultimately our behavior may not reflect that rationale (“I don’t want to wander around this convention hall with my Coke can searching for a recycling receptacle”).