22
Sep 14

A deeper look at stakeholders and perpetuating factors in American Racism

In the steps of creating an applied social psychology intervention the first and second are identifying a problem and coming up with a solution. That sounds so simple and matter of fact doesn’t it? In practice though it is clearly not that easy, yet there are some social problems so devastatingly powerful and serious that identifying and coming up with a solution is a literal matter of life and death. Racism in America and the ongoing murdering of black men in America is an ongoing nightmare that has not abated since blacks were freed after the Civil War. I feel a new fresh and honest look at the stakeholder and perpetuating factors aspects of the first and second steps of intervention creation is more than called for in creating more effective programs to deal with this issue.

Identifying a problem is usually built around the idea of stakeholders who have a vested interest in program development. To say that racism in America is a problem and that there is a huge need for intervention is abundantly clear but I don’t think that all those who are stakeholders are aware of their position or relation to this issue. There are people in our country who actually believe and say that we are a post-racial nation now. There are people who with all the sincerity in the world consider themselves to not be prejudiced and go about their daily lives feeling good about themselves for it. And there are those whom even in dense urban settings feel that racism doesn’t affect them and they have no part or stake in it. Truth is I feel that every single person who stands on US soil is a stakeholder and should be aware of that fact. Slavery was an unspeakable social evil created and supported in the light of totally contradictive rhetoric that stated All men are created equal while simultaneously enslaving and debasing their human brethren. The cognitive constructs or schemas built around quieting the cognitive dissonance of doing these horrible actions and keeping them in place for hundreds of years has created a viral like existence to racism in America especially against blacks that I dare say everyone gets exposed. It’s rampant and insidious. Considering that blacks were used as the financial foundation to build the wealth and power of the US and that they we considered not human but living currency to be used at the will and whim of the white men in power called for staunch suppression and repression of cognitive/emotional processes that might undermine the business of slavery and inform those that supported slavery that they were doing something immoral, wrong and evil. The famous Doll Studies done by Kenneth and Mamie Clark and subsequent versions of the study done show the sad truth of how people of all races and in various locations pick up the virus of racism even as little children. If you are not familiar with it please visit this CNN link. http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/ This particular schema that the children display which has deeply affected their perceptions and therefore their choices and behaviors is I feel the force that perpetuates racism against black in America and negative self hate of blacks towards themselves.

In the creating a solution phase of social interventions I feel that engaging the issue of racism should be done at the level of the schemas currently playing in the minds of almost everyone in America. Specifically finding ways to first illuminate or expose the schema and then dismantle or extinguish it. There have been many studies showing that often time whites, in particular white males are unconscious of their racially biased behavior towards blacks and this is a key problem. The structure, laws, institutions and more seem to be designed with protecting and keeping what I call the white male schema in place. This insures keeping the power, keeping the status quo, and it also insures not having to deal with the cognitive dissonance of emotions of sadness, grief, guilt etc that come along with enslaving, murdering, raping, using and abusing a race of people for your personal benefit. It’s a very deep and hellish thought of being hit with the emotions that those acts would create and this add considerable strength to the walls of these schemas. Black people have their work cut out for them when even the Supreme Court acknowledges that blacks have no part or parcel in the benefits of being an American citizen nor do they have any rights the white people should care to respect. Please watch this video to see the Supreme Court ruling in this matter. This mental position is what put slavery into place from the beginning and has driven governmental policy ever since. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/16/melissa-harris-perry-black-men-killed-by-police_n_5684588.html Breaching the emotional walls however is I feel the route to take to make change. Beyond laws and policies being created, beyond marches, speeches, lofty intentions and platitudes humans need to feel in order to experience deep lasting and genuine change. My research project is designed around this very idea, of engaging the problem at the level of the schemas and along with cognitive acknowledgment, design an intervention that taps into emotional and physiological awareness to phenomena that surround the existence of racial schemas in America.

The items of stakeholders and perpetuating factors have a very salient existence in regards to the specific topic of white racism against blacks in America because of the high level of denial and cognitive dissonance involved. These factors are as common in the American way of life as the air we all breathe here. It’s almost impossible to escape. It’s not that racist attitudes are impossible to change, but when there is monumental fear of losing power and status and exposure for evils done against others, stakeholders and perpetuating factors both become more deeply infected and entrenched in the sickening madness of hate. The so-called Founding Fathers of this country were either very stupid, very evil or very selfish when deciding to go this route when designing their “free” country. If they thought that treatment of other human beings in this manner would have no consequences or repercussions they were not very wise and don’t deserve all the praise they seem to engender.

 

References

Billante, J., Hadad, C. (2010). Study: White and black children biased toward lighter skin. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/

Mirkinson, J. (2014). Melissa Harris-Perry’s Searing Tribute To Black Men Killed By Police. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/16/melissa-harris-perry-black-men-killed-by-police_n_5684588.html


22
Sep 14

Intervention: Using Cognitive Dissonance Theory to quit smoking

Good morning fellow Applied Social Psychologists in the making…

For my initial blog I couldn’t think of a better starting point then where I find myself mentally and physically – craving a cigarette at 6 am. “I’m not having coffee” because habitually I would have one with the other. I want to keep busy but refrain from being outdoors other than having to go from coordinate to coordinate. And I don’t even want to be near one. I actually bought a pack and never buy packs and gave it away.

What brought on this needs assessment in a preventative manner was when I started feeling health-compromising effects and the toxins at work. You have probably read all about the disastrous side effects, and not just to one’s self but, in retrospect, its an applied course of action by a participant, done almost second nature. It’s also a disregard to everyone directly around while he engaging/indulging in that behavior.

This entry is not an excuse to state the obvious; I wanted to capture a chronological approach – a self-report to monitor my progress. Yesterday was Day 1 and this morning is usually when people usually relapse.

While attempting to focus on successfully creating a decent blog and sharing an example of how I applied what we have been learning I decided to use my life as guinea pig to display what I believe are some theories working in conjunction. I started noticing a number of symptoms that I haven’t ever paid attention to until I started taking not only this course but also Health Psychology and combined to the two courses, absorbing so much new information and processing it, and applying it to myself in areas that are indeed applicable to better understanding how they function and we could be guided by them.

“According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.” – Festinger, L. (1957)

How could I exercise and see results but not be as satisfied? Smoking affects muscle growth. How could I feel so tired or unmotivated, drink a coffee or energy drink for energy and have a cigarette that is proven to cause fatigue? How could I go for “air” and use my 15 minute break at work to wait for an elevator and rush outside to have just enough time to have at least one cigarette? Sounds unnecessary, doesn’t it? How about being hungry and needing energy, and choosing a cigarette over food because it’ll curb your appetite? Oh that developing smoker’s cough, hacking away and making you sound older than what you are? Smoking too.

Looking at the inconsistencies between attitudes and behavior, there are certain people I won’t have a cigarette around – I don’t need to, don’t think of it, or anything. If I’m home I don’t smoke around my Munchkin, she never sees me smoking or even smells it on me. But why would someone willingly want to hold a “cancer-stick”, appropriately nicknamed, as an agent of death. Why would anyone invite such harmful products into their lives? Or share it?

In the past when trying to quit, I’d battle between what I knew was wreaking havoc on my lungs and stamina, emotionally and mentally causing all kinds of dependencies, etc. but I’d say “I don’t smoke a lot at all”. I look at my brother buying a pack every other day, and see how strong he looks and how normal and happy he seems, and would pull up right next to him and join him.

I started seeing the skin on my pointer and middle finger looking a little discolored, slightly different than the other fingers on my right hand. It made me paid attention a little more when my inner middle finger, where the filter and its residue build up, and poisons accumulate, holding the back end – was starting to crack. I thought it was the cold last winter, but hardening and bleeding only on that one finger? Right, pretty normal. Due to the weather and not me smoking, right. Wrong.

This summer the crack was back. Skin was hardening again and I even felt the superficial layers of skin desensitized. So guess what I did? Yes, I switched hands. This was the beginning of the end for smoking. I knew my smoking days were numbered because it took away the “enjoyment” for me – the recklessness or careless, nonchalant motion of feeling free or “cool”. I didn’t feel like I looked cool smoking with my left hand, never mind me thinking “I’ll keep all 10 fingers a little longer”. Now I was outside worrying about my health and all my fingers. But it was not until I decided to “switch hands” that I decided to look into implementing my assessments and seek proven evaluations for interventions that as I’m writing here now, setting my goals for Day 2, I’m working to quit for good.

You can’t factor in all these variables and see a direct correlation and ignore that data. Even proven methods show track records of relapsing, but only combining the psychological to the behavioral and applying it cognitively has lasting effects. “Once you know better, you do better.” And I know myself well enough to know that it would not be “just one cigarette” with my coffee in the morning. I’d use my work break and stress and an excuse to gauge levels of physical stress I’m willingly to apply to myself and choosing that as a “lesser poison” than dealing with stress at work in a productive manner? I’m choosing health-enhancing thinking now to match my attitudes and behaviors. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Reference:

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., Coutts, L.  (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Cognitive Dissonance. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html

Brannon, L. & Fiest, J. (2007).  Health Psychology.  Belmont, MA: Wadsworth Publishing


22
Sep 14

Re-associating Recycling with Objects of Beauty and Value

The environment has always had a great importance to me from an early age I had role models such as Smoky the Bear and Woodsy the Owl, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute!”  One of the most influential people in my life was my aunt Charlotte.  Her being a “Hippie” she taught me great ways to help the environment.  I still hold strong to those tips and use them in my daily life.  One of the ideals she taught me was ‘buying used rather than new’. This form of recycling helps the environment and can be quite a bit of fun in the process.

The waste management idea of buying used rather than new is a growing idea of recycling in many communities.  When I speak of waste management, I am talking about the packaging that newer items usually come wrapped in, like plastic wrap, cardboard boxes, and the dreaded Styrofoam.  According to the chapter Applying Social Psychology to the Environment (2012) “recognizing that a variety of environmental problems represent threats to environmental sustainability and that many problems have their roots in human behavior” (p. 306) shows that people’s habits are the initial problem.  Therefore, buying used not only helps to change people’s habits but also can save you money while keeping that money in your community.

First Monday Canton

First Monday Canton

The best places to shop secondhand are thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, antique shops, and the ever-growing flea markets; such as First Monday Canton (2013), that takes place in the town of Canton, Texas, takes up most of the town, and runs first Monday of every month.  This event established back in the 1850’s is still going strong today. You can buy everything from housewares to automobile parts and antiques.  Some of the local thrift stores actually donate to local organizations or employee disabled workers.  Shopping with thrift stores helps local economy and helps to reduce the waste that these outlets would use if they were selling new items.  Garage sales are tax-free and once again, you are buying used and saving money.  Estate sales and antique stores are a great place to find treasures or one-of-a-kind items without supporting mainstream industries that use natural resources to fuel their factories.

Windsor Chair

Windsor Chair

One of the growing ideas currently is that antiques are green.  The website Antiques are Green (2014), says “they help and advice to businesses and consumers on reducing their carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels and becoming greener.” On this website, they discuss how an antique chair, the Windsor chair that was made over a hundred years ago and was made by hand using no fossil fuel run machines can still be used today from any antique store rather than purchasing another chair from a big name department store chain. Therefore, someone could hand it down or sell it to another environmentally minded consumer continuing the cycle of waste management through the use idea of buying used rather than new.

ricks-boothI am an avid antique shopper and 98% of my home consists of antique furnishings and accessories, which is one of the largest contributions that I do to help the environment and lessen my carbon footprint in the world.  When seeking out items for my home the first places that I go are the local antique stores or the Dallas area antique stores to try and find what I am  needing otherwise I go to garage and estate sales for items regularly.  Fiske (2014) stated, “We need to dis-associate recycling from empty soda cans and bottles and re-associating it with objects of beauty and value.”

References

Antiques Are Green – Antiques Trade Association Promoting a Valuable Heritage Industry and Embracing Green and Ethical Issues. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.antiquesaregreen.org/

Applying Social Psychology to the Environment. (2012). In F. Schneider, J. Gruman, & L. Coutts (Eds.), Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

First Monday Canton. (2013, January 1). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.firstmondaycanton.com/

Friske, J. (2014). Antiques are Green. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.fiskeandfreeman.com/antiquesaregreen.aspx


21
Sep 14

Birth Control and Global Injustice to the Environment

Residing in a suburb of New York City, experiencing the daily challenges of bumper to bumper traffic and elbowing my way through crowds, I have been given a wake-up all.  Overcrowding is not a healthy existence, and one of the main cures for keeping the numbers of people in check is simple–birth control.   Birth control can be a key factor in the overall existence and health of our population and environment.  To maintain and control the population and its growth patterns, individuals should adhere to some form of birth control.  Whether it be the use of condoms or birth control pills and other methods that reduce reproduction, we can be on the path to eliminate the threats to our public health and environmental issues that are suffering due to overpopulation.

Using the “hypocrisy” manipulation for individuals may aid in the usage of such control methods.  With the arousal of dissonance, individuals may take heed in their past behaviors and focus more on the outcomes and shortcomings that may arise for oneself and others in the environment. In studies regarding the use of condoms, it was noted that the hypocrisy manipulation offered the results of greater intentions to utilize condoms as opposed to past behavioral patterns  (Aronson et al., 1991).

I was devastated to discover that in my community alone the life expectancy is lower that the other five surrounding boroughs.  Staten Island, New York has the highest death rates per 100,000 people in the five boroughs due to cancer, chronic lower respiratory, disease, and heart disease (Donnelly, 2012).  These illnesses have been attributed to the environment where I live.  The abundance of people have afforded crowded conditions that cause extreme situations that affect one’s personal health.  When it comes to exhaust from vehicles that crowd the roads, fumes from ferries that transports thousands of people per day to their jobs, and overall pollution due to the supply and demand to keep the city functioning, a person’s health is at risk on a daily basis.  On a brighter note, if these people and generations before them had practiced some sort of birth control, the population would not be so devastating today and the quality of life in my community would not be so unhealthy and filthy.  To drive into a shopping plaza and have another driver threaten your life for the parking spot proves that there is definitely devastating effects of overcrowding and human existence.  This has happened to me on more than one occasion and has become an acceptable norm.  There have been deaths related to this topic in my community.

Not only can overpopulation affect one’s health and living conditions, but also it can have a devastating impact on our food and water supply.  Overpopulation can also pressure our coastal ecosystems, fisheries, and forests.  Our biological diversity is compromised regarding agriculture and medicine.  Plants and animal species are forced into extinction due to the population boom and demands.  This problem reaches a global environmental problem.  Demands for food, irreplaceable depletion of natural resources and harmful effects to our entire ecosystems are just some of the problems that are encountered with human overpopulation.   Depletion of the stratospheric ozone, along with systemically polluting our soil, air, water, and food supply is another effect of overcrowding in the environment.

Studies have suggested that if the population growth was curbed, global poverty and even a simple reduction of carbon emission per year would be reduced.  Global problems such as climate change, poverty and lack of resources can be resolved if family planning is encouraged (Kristof, 2011).  Not only does overpopulation lead to greater poverty and lower standards of living, but exposure to pollution, environmental hazards, toxic substances and other health risk factors rise to deadly levels.  If the process of reproduction is curtailed through the use of birth control practice, our environment can take a breath and improve its living standards.  Investments can be utilized to boost productivity and help the economies flourish.  Our supply for natural resources can be offered time to replenish itself and not be diminish due to high demands placed on it by overpopulation.  The water supply can be conserved more, and the agricultural and industrial areas can better themselves by increasing productivity and supplies.

In conclusion, birth control methods can help in slowing down the population growth.  With this in motion, the living standards will improve, along with the protection of our natural resources.  The population size will stabilize and individuals can sustain a more favorable standard of living.  With the population growth being curtailed through birth control, our resources, environment, and sustainable development can be maintained and improved.  Whether on a global scale or as experienced on a smaller scale in my own community, the impact of overpopulation can be harmful and unhealthy, both to the physical and mental capacities of a person.   This is an interesting parallel, but the end result can help us live a longer, healthier existence.

 

References

 

Aronson, E., Fried, C., & Stone, J. (1991). Overcoming denial: Increasing the intention to use condoms through the induction of hypocrisy. American Journal of Public Health, 18, 1636-1640.

 

Donnelly, F. (2012) Want to live longer? Staten Island may not be your place. Staten Island Advance, pp. 3, 4.

 

Kristof, N. D. (2011, November 2).  The Birth Control Solution. The New York Times, pp. 24, 25.

 

http://www.silive.com/relationships/index.ssf/2011/09/rules_for_getting_along_in_our_overcrowded_borough.html


21
Sep 14

Challenging Energy Companies to Compete

by Amy Caraballo

Since the dawn of time, humans have thrived on competition. Today, countries continue to compete for dominance in both the financial markets and for total power. Competition isn’t limited to national governments, however. In the United States, entire weekends are devoted to televised sporting events and children, as young as toddlers, compete in sports (Sports Connection, n.d.). Even the performing arts have become televised competitions. It seems only natural then to look at the power of competition to change our energy consuming ways. What about our options, though? Few companies offer much renewable energy. Even those that do offer only a small fraction of the energy produced through renewable resources (American Physical Society, n.d.). How can consumers meaningfully change our consumption when the options are so severely limited? But, what if we used this naturally competitive streak of our human nature on the actual energy companies, themselves?

What Do We Need?

Nearly 40% of the world’s electricity is produced by burning coal (Nijhuis, 2014). The burning of coal is one of the main contributors of greenhouse gases, specifically CO2 (Nijhuis, 2014). And coal isn’t the only problem. All fossil fuels, including natural gas, capjerimum_Greenhouse_Effectpropane, gasoline, even butane give off CO2 as a byproduct of their use (EIA, n.d.). In fact, 84% of all the world’s power is created through fossil fuels. (American Physical Society, n.d.). These resources are also severely limited and we are destined to run out (Riddel, Ronson, Counts, & Spenser, n.d.). It is obvious that we need to find renewable and ecologically safe alternatives and we need to do this soon. But with such changes come costs and there has been little financial incentive for energy companies to change their ways. After all, consumers still need energy regardless of where it comes from.

What Do We Know?

In 1996, Siero et al. studied how a phenomenon called comparative feedback influenced industrial employees to conserve energy while at work. Basically, the scientists found that when a group of workers saw how their own conservation efforts stacked up against another group’s efforts, they worked harder at conserving energy (Siero et al, 1996). This comparative feedback idea has also been used successfully in getting individuals to reduce energy consumption at home (Midden, Meter, Weenig & Zieverink, 1983). Knowing that competition also drives much of our capitalistic economy, it would seem that using comparative feedback to stir up competition might also work on the energy companies, themselves.

How Do We Do It?

From a financial standpoint, there is very little reason for an energy company to scrap current technology and know-how to convert resources to renewable energy. Conversion is costly in both time and resources. Though we can make many moral and environmental arguments for switching, the bottom line is usually about money. In order for energy companies to change, there has to be financial incentive. One way we might incentivize the industry is to create government sponsored competition. Though thispowerplants idea might incur public costs, these costs could be minimal if in the form of advertisement. Using the idea of comparative feedback, the government could create public advertising campaigns that gave statistics about how well each energy company was doing in terms of changing to renewable sources. This advertising could serve as a financial incentive for companies who were working harder at switching to renewable energy. Consumers would be able to know which energy companies were more dedicated to saving the planet and thus these companies could outsell their competition.

What Does This Look Like?

Much like other United States Government sponsored campaigns (think The Ad Council), there could be multimedia campaigns that ensured that people knew which companies were changing over to renewable resources. This could be updated on a monthly or semi-monthly basis and be part of the national news, for instance. In order for it to work, this information would have to be consistently sent out and updated. People would need to know when to expect the information and where to get it. As long as the information was flowing, consumers would have choices and the energy companies would have to work hard at keeping the consumers happy.

But Will It Work?

A program is only as good as its evaluation process. There would have to be a way to measure how much positive change was happening in the form of continually more available renewable energy and less available fossil fuel sources after this comparative advertising campaign took flight. We would have to measure how much renewable energy was available in the short-term of the program and then how much was available in more of a long-term time frame. Because this intervention also presumes that consumers want renewable energy, more studies should be done to gauge the public’s knowledge about the dire circumstances of our continued reliance on fossil fuels. The knowledge or lack thereof could affect how much or little change happens in terms of energy production from the industry. In other words, they might build it, but will we buy it?

For those who are aware of the dire circumstances of global climate change and the limited supply of fossil fuels, switching to renewable energy is, well, a no-brainer. If we want the Earth to support life a little while longer we must find a way to reduce our usage. For those who are hard to convince, however, we might need some incentives. Competition is as old as we humans, ourselves. Perhaps we can use that competitive quality to push everyone, even energy companies, to save our species.


American Physical Society. (n.d.). Fossil Energy. Retrieved from http://www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/energy/fossil.cfm

Midden, C., Meter, J., Weenig, M., & Zieverink, H. (1983). Using feedback, reinforcement and information to reduce energy consumption in households: A field-experiment. Economic Psychology, 3.1, 65-86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0167-4870(83)90058-2

Nijhuis, M. (2014). Can Coal Ever Be Clean? Retrieved from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/coal/nijhuis-text

Riddell, A., Ronson, S., Counts, G., & Spenser, K. (n.d.). Towards Sustainable Energy: The Current Fossil Fuel Problem and the Prospects of Geothermal and Nuclear Power. Retrieved from http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/trade_environment/energy/hfossil.html

Sports Connection LLC. (n.d.). Lil’ Kickers Soccer. Retrieved from http://www.sportsconnectionnc.com/details.php?Lil-Kickers-Soccer-40

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (n.d.). Energy – Carbon Dioxide Emissions Coefficients. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.cfm


21
Sep 14

An Effective Energy Conserving Intervention

Several years ago, as a way to reduce their energy costs, my parents decided to participate in a local competition that challenged participants to reduce their energy consumption. The local contest lasted for three months and encouraged participants to track their energy consumption through a tool located on the local electric company’s website. The first three households to show the most significant reduction in energy consumption were awarded a discounted rate on their electric bill. In addition to the discounted rate, each of the top three households were also awarded a gift card for the overall amount of monetary savings they produced by reducing energy consumption.

At the start of the program, every member in each participating household was required to sign a pledge promising their effort to conserve energy. During the contest, participants received weekly letters in the mail that offered advice on how to reduce their energy needs and helpful behavioral modifying tips to reduce unnecessary energy consumption. Any household that included children received additional information with their weekly letter that was intended to educate children on the importance of saving energy. In addition to the weekly letters, each household was required to track their energy consumption behavior over the course of a week and log their information into an account setup by the local electric company. Every week, each participating household’s information was updated on the website, which provided a graph detailing their usage in comparison to other participating households.

The local contest was an overall success. Several community members participated and, within the three-month period, energy rates dropped significantly. Despite the competitive nature of the challenge, the relationship within the community, oddly enough, tightened, and many participating households began to work together in an effort to conserve energy. Months following the contest, many involved in the challenge, including my parents, continued their efforts in reducing energy consumption. In the end, the contest proved to be a very effective way to modify energy-consumption behavior. As with any effective intervention, the implemented program was structured to address an immediate issue, it demonstrated established goals, targeted specific behavior and influenced positive social change (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012, P. 63-65). In addition to resolving the immediate issue, the intervention, intended or not, also fostered a positive community relationship.

Reference
Frank, S. W., Jamie, G. A., & Larry, C. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed., pp. 63-65). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


19
Sep 14

Making Changes to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint

I am sitting here brainstorming, thinking of a good environmental issue to write about and how applied social psychology relates to it.  I could write about how human dependence on fossil fuels is causing global warming, but I won’t.  Instead I’m going to write about my own personal experience as a consumer of natural energy resources, and the changes I’ve made to reduce my family’s carbon footprint.

I wish I could say that it was my concern for the environment which urged me and my family to make the changes initially, but it was not.  Eight years ago my husband lost his job as a production manager at the manufacturing plant he had worked at for ten years.  This was a major impact on our lives, our income changed drastically.  The first thing I did was research on all the ways we could reduce our monthly spending.  Some major things our family could change that would reduce our bills were related to the environment; we could reduce our consumption of electricity, water, natural gas, and petroleum.  I came up with a list of all the changes we would make that would save us a bundle of money and also help to reduce our carbon footprint.  We had a savings, thank goodness, or we would not have been able to make some of the changes required.

First we reduced our use of gasoline; my husband traded in his gas guzzling SUV for a more economical sedan.  His MPG went from 15 to 27.  Then we went out and bought the energy efficient CFL bulbs and changed all of the light bulbs in our home.  We also began getting in the habit of turning off lights when not in use and turning of the TV when nobody is physically watching it.  Another way we reduced our carbon footprint was to conserve water.  I’ve always been thoughtful about that, but we made a few more changes.  For instance our dishwasher has an economy setting which uses much less water, so we began using that setting.  My son, who loves to dilly dally in the shower, with our encouragement, reduced his shower time from twenty minutes to ten minutes.  We changed the shower heads in our two bathrooms to water conserving ones.  Another change I made was creating a way to collect rainwater from our gutter system to be used to water our yard instead of using the water hose.  Another change we made was using our tap water for drinking water, instead of purchasing bottled water.  Which after research I learned that bottled water does nothing but line the pockets of whoever sells it.  We also had our furnace changed from the original one that was a good fifty plus years old with 45% efficiency, to a new model that cut our natural gas consumption nearly in half with a new furnace that has 90% efficiency.  This cost a little bit upfront, but has greatly reduced our monthly natural gas bill and was definitely worth it.  With all the changes being made, we felt it was important to have a family meeting to discuss the importance of being more thoughtful of the energy we use.  In order to help our children make the changes we got them involved and made the good energy saving behaviors part of their reward chart.  We also assigned them jobs; my son was put in charge of recycling, and our daughter is the one who makes sure we are turning of lights and not leaving things on that are not in use.  They are good little energy conservation law enforcers.

Even though we are back on track economically, the new changes that we made are still with us and have encouraged our children to participate actively in reducing our carbon footprint and coming up with ideas to be more thoughtful consumers.  My son is in charge of the recycling that goes on around here.  He’s like a little recycling policeman, making sure that anything that could go in the recycle bins gets put there and not accidentally put in the trash.  He even finds interesting new uses for items that would normally get tossed out; for instance an old plastic shelf that we were going to throw out has become a display shelf in his room for all his favorite toys.

I found that as these changes were being made in our home, I began talking about it with my friends.  When I told them about the cost savings we experienced after making these changes, some of my friends began to make some of the changes also.  This relates to the idea in the book that people with common interests and beliefs tend to socialize with and influence each other (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).   It seemed that the more conscious we were of our use of energy and water, the more thoughtful we became about other areas we could make changes.  For instance, I now use nothing but reusable grocery bags when I shop.  I also is try to make errands as efficient as possible, so I’m not driving all over using more gas than necessary.  At first it takes a bit of an effort, but then over time becomes habit and though initially these changes were motivated by the need to reduce our costs, it is a good feeling knowing that with a few simple acts that we are reducing our carbon footprint.  These habits will carry on with our children, as I’m certain that by the time they are adults it will be an important part of their daily life.

 

 

Reference

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., Coutts, L. (2012).  Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.) Los Angeles: Sage.


02
Sep 14

tips for writing a blog post

The Technical

The first step is to make sure that you have access to posting to the blogs here at Penn State. To do so, you need to get your webaccess ID.

The second thing is to try out a test entry. You can do this in your own personal blog or in our shared blog space. Click on “+ Post” towards the top of the page. You can then create an entry using the form. plusI recommend trying out a few different things such as including a link and inserting a picture as these are things that you will want to do with your regular entries to enhance the content. Make sure to title this test something like “test entry”.

It is recommended that you write the entry using word processing software (such as Word or Pages) first and then copy and paste it over as the spellcheck is not great here.

Hit “Publish” towards the right side of the page. publishBut also don’t forget to proofread both before you do that and after your entry is published so that your entry looks professional.

Feel free to ask questions if you need help. Your instructor is happy to help, as is the blogs support team.

 

The Content

Think of an idea that you want to write about. Research the idea and take some notes. Create an outline and then draft the entry after you have a thesis . Otherwise you run the risk of your entry sounding like stream of consciousness writing or a rant. While blogs are less formal than say term papers or academic essays, you still want them to sound intelligent and be informative to your readers. To that end, you want to include your references and cite where your information is from so that your readers can find out more information if they so choose and can hopefully engage in you in an intelligent conversation about your topic by reading the information that you are basing your ideas from.

Have fun and get creative. Add things like videos, charts, pictures or links that demonstrate your point. Feel free to add some humor and make the entry personal (obviously remain professional as the information is public).

References

The Pennsylvania State University. (n.d.). Sites at Penn State. Retrieved at: http://sites.psu.edu/support/

Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University. (2008). How to write a thesis statement. Retrieved online at: http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/thesis_statement.shtml

 

An earlier version of this entry appeared in the Applied Social Psychology Blog.


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