The Psychology of “Going Green”

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC

Eco psychology refers to the motivation people have for making environmentally friendly or green choices. Going green isn’t just about using cloth bags instead of plastic ones or biking to work instead of driving. There is a psychology that links us to a green lifestyle. Here are a few thoughts that will hopefully inspire you to start living an environmentally friendly lifestyle.


In spite of efforts to promote awareness most people are going to follow their wallet over their conscience. If individuals see that they can save money by making environmentally friendly choices, they are more likely to be motivated to make such choices. Hybrid vehicles were not popular sellers when they first appeared on the market. However, their prices are now comparable with traditional cars and there are still tax advantages from purchasing a hybrid. They have become more affordable, but the environment still benefits, even though the environmental factor is secondary in this case.


Think puppies, kittens, love songs and romantic movies. We are emotional creatures and react to certain themes and symbols accordingly. An image of toddlers at play will illicit a certain emotional response while an image of a violent mob will spark a completely different emotion.  Accordingly, if going green is experienced or internalized as helping the planet, making it a better place, people will tend to be more receptive to environmentally friendly concepts. If we see the planet as “sick” or “hurting” we are more likely to empathize and thus more likely to help.


“With great power comes great responsibility,” so the saying goes. We all have an inherent need to be part of something larger than ourselves, contributing to something that will ripple to future generations. In short, we have an innate need to leave behind a legacy. Being responsible for living an environmentally friendly lifestyle is essential to future generations. By learning and teaching the use of green methods, it is possible to move society in a direction where we are all responsible for our actions. Fostering the concept of our being stewards of the earth promotes cooperation and a better understanding of our limited time to make a difference.


Forget politics for a moment, climate change is happening whether or not you chose to believe it is being accelerated by humans. The planet is warming at an alarming rate, air and water quality are diminishing rapidly. Disease and pestilence are rampant. Non-green practices will continue to exasperate these problems and maintaining our health will become more difficult. A green lifestyle is not the only solution to these issues, but they promote wellness and ultimately become part of a solution.


Living a lifestyle of apathy and indulgence is irresponsible and leads to non sustainability of the planet. A consumer-driven society that does consider the planet it is leaving behind for future generations is, at best, hopeless. So maybe your individual choice of cloth and paper bags over plastic may not save the world, but it won’t hurt it either. Going green doesn’t mean having to make drastic changes. It means making informed choices. As humans we embrace choice, we need it to survive. Going green promotes choice and helps provide a connection with our neighbors and the world at large.

The Healthy Cog wants to know: Share your thoughts on the “green” activities that give you a better outlook on life?

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