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Introduction to Instructor Resources

Overview of Teaching Psychology for Sustainability

Why We Created This Site

The primary cause of all "environmental problems" is human behavior.

These problems are not really problems of the environment, but are the result of a mismatch between the ways in which human beings fulfill their needs and wants and the natural processes that maintain ecological integrity. As experts on human behavior, psychologists have the potential to serve a crucial role in halting our ecologically-destructive trajectory and promoting a sustainable future. One way that psychologists can contribute to a sustainable future is by teaching tomorrow's conservation scientists, policy-makers, and grassroots activists about the fundamental connections between human behavior and the environmental crisis, and between the discipline of psychology and remedies for the crisis; however, the discipline of psychology is currently absent from most undergraduate programs focused on conservation and sustainability. Likewise, environmental issues are not salient in most undergraduate psychology programs.

One reason that psychology and undergraduate environmental education have not been well integrated is that people outside of psychology misunderstand the discipline.

If the discipline is presumed to be exclusively about distress, disorders, and therapy, its relevance to environmental issues is likely not apparent to the biologists, geographers, political scientists, philosophers, and others who comprise the typical faculty of environmental studies programs. Therefore, it is no surprise that our recent informal sampling of undergraduate environmental studies and environmental science programs in the U. S. revealed that more than half of the environmental studies programs and nearly 90% of the environmental science programs included no psychology at all, as either a requirement or an option for credit.

A second reason stems from the lack of a coherent environmental focus within our discipline.

Although psychologists have pursued research related to environmental issues for several decades, their work does not fit neatly into a particular subdiscipline and, therefore, is rarely included in the standard undergraduate psychology curriculum. The subdiscipline called "environmental psychology" is not specifically focused on natural environments-- although the literature contains examples of research regarding topics such as cognitive responses to natural settings and textbooks in the field are beginning to address the need to promote environmentally responsible behaviors. A few ecologically concerned researchers grounded in other traditional branches of psychology (primarily behavioral, social, and cognitive) have applied basic theory to behaviors such as energy conservation, recycling, and material consumption for three decades, but this work has not had an officially recognized subdisciplinary label. In the 1990s, holistic thinkers referring to themselves as "ecopsychologists" began exploring the idea that contemporary industrialized urban living erodes the ecologically-connected sense of self with which we are born, leaving us developmentally deprived and psychologically distressed. Some clinicians have incorporated ecopsychological therapies into their practices to foster ecologically-based wellness and sustainable lifestyle choices. Within the last four years, a new label has caught on: Conservation Psychology. It may well prove to be a useful meta-label that will encompass all of the disparate environmentally-related work by psychologists. Like the discipline of conservation biology, conservation psychology is conceived of as psychology with a conservation agenda, i.e., psychology for a sustainable future (Saunders, 2003).

It is in the spirit of conservation psychology that we have created this site and dubbed it "Teaching Psychology for Sustainability." Our purpose is to provide a resource to help instructors begin integrating psychology and environmental issues in their courses.

By no means is this an exhaustive compliation of all relevant literature and classroom materials, but it should provide ample inspiration to motivated instructors. The site includes:

Informally, the site represents a "who's who" of instructors and researchers in the area. It is our hope that as more instructors make the links between psychology and sustainability, curricular connections between psychology and environmental education will become more common. We encourage those who are pedagogically inspired by this manual to become vocal advocates and curricular activists in pursuit of that goal.

We would like to extend our appreciation to the Instructional Resource Award Task Force of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology for their support of the creation of this resource. We also wish to thank the colleagues listed below for their contributions to this effort.

Britain Scott & Sue Koger
December, 2005

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How You Can Use This Site

Resources are organized according to traditional subdisciplines of psychology, but many of the topics, activities, and multimedia resources could have application in a variety of classes, so we encourage instructors to explore the site. Each subdiscipline page includes the following content areas:

Lecture/Discussion Topics
Class Activities
Multimedia Resources
Suggested Readings for Students
References Cited in this Section

Throughout the pages you will see links to web resources and PDFs. Depending on your browser preferences, PDFs may open a second browser window or automatically download for your reference.

Some of the content on this site comes from the contributors listed below. All contributions are credited. Uncredited resources are our own. Our goal was to offer a sampling and so we welcome suggestions for additions and revisions. We also invite feedback;if you use any of our resources, let us know how it went. Please submit suggestions, questions, and comments via our contact form.

To access the subdiscipline pages, the compendium of syllabi, and the comprehensive bibliography, go to Introduction to the Instructor Resources.

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General Resources to Get You Started

There have been numerous books, review articles/chapters, and special journal issues dedicated to the discussion of links between psychology and environmental issues. These include the following:


Scott, B. A., Amel, E. L., Koger, S. K., & Manning, C. M. (2015). Psychology for sustainability (4th ed.). New York: Psychology Press.

Jones, R. G. (2014). Psychology of sustainability: An applied perspective. New York: Routledge.

Wielkiewicz, R. M. (2014). Sustainability and psychology. St. Cloud, MN: Main Event Press.

van Trijp, H. C. M. (Ed.) (2014). Encouraging sustainable behavior: Psychology and the environment. New York: Psychology Press.

Clayton, S. (2012). The Oxford handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Clayton, S. & Myers, G. (2009). Conservation psychology: Understanding and promoting human care for nature. Chichester, West Sussex, Uk: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nickerson, R. S. (2003). Psychology and environmental change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bonnes, M., Lee, T., & Bonaiuto, M. (Eds.). (2003). Psychological theories for environmental issues. Wiltshire, UK: Antony Rowe Ltd.

Schmuck, P., & Schultz, W. P. (Eds.). (2002). Psychology of sustainable development. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Gardner, G.T., & Stern, P.C. (2002). Environmental problems and human behavior (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson Custom.


Gifford, R. (2014). Environmental psychology matters. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 541-579. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115048.

Steg, L. & Vlek, C. (2009). Encouraging pro-environmental behavior: An integrative review and research agenda. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 309-317.

Koger, S. & Scott, B. A. (2007). Psychology and environmental sustainability: A call for integration. Teaching of Psychology, 34(1), 10-18.

Oskamp, S., & Schultz, P. W. (2006). Using psychological science to achieve ecological sustainability. In S. I. Donaldson, D. E. Berger, & K. Bezdek (Eds.), Applied psychology: New frontiers and rewarding careers (pp. 81-106). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Clayton, S. & Brook, A. (2005). Can psychology help save the world? A model for conservation psychology. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, ., 1-15.

Saunders, C. D., & Myers, O. E. (Eds.). (2003). Exploring the potential of conservation psychology. Special issue of Human Ecology Review 10(2) Includes Carol Saunders's "The emerging field of conservation psychology" followed by seventeen responses Click here for a PDF list of authors and titles of their responses.

Schmuck, P., & Vlek, C. (2003). Psychologists can do much to support sustainable development. European Psychologist, ., 66-76.

Kurz, T. (2002). The psychology of environmentally sustainable behavior: Fitting together pieces of the puzzle. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1), 257-278.

Vining, J., & Ebreo, A. (2002). Emerging theoretical and methodological perspectives on conservation behavior. In R. B. Bechtel & A. Churchman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental psychology (pp. 541-558). New York: Wiley.

Werner, C. M. (1999). Psychological perspectives on sustainability. In E. Becker & T. Jahn (Eds.), Sustainability and the social sciences: A cross-disciplinary approach to integrating environmental considerations into theoretical reorientation (pp. 223-242). New York: ZED Books.

Stern, P. C. (1992). Psychological dimensions of global environmental change. Annual Review of Psychology, 43, 269-302.


Several issues of the Journal of Social Issues, listed here in reverse chronological order, have focused on environmental issues:

Knight, S., & Herzog, H. (2009). New perspectives on psychology and human-animal interactions., Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 451-644. Click here for online contents

Vlek, C., & Steg, L. (Eds.). (2007). Human behavior and environmental sustainability. Journal of Social
, 63(1), 1-231. Click here for for online contents

Zelezny, L. C., & Schultz, P. W. (Eds.). (2000). Promoting environmentalism. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 365-578. Click here for online contents

McKenzie-Mohr, D., & Oskamp, S. (Eds.). (1995). Psychology and the promotion of a sustainable future. Journal of Social Issues, 51(4). Click here for PDF list of articles

Clayton, S., & Opotow, S. (Eds.). (1994). Green justice: Conceptions of fairness and the natural world. Journal of Social Issues, 50(3). Click here for PDF list of articles

Plous, S. (Ed.). (1993). The role of animals in human society. Journal of Social Issues, 49(1). Click here for PDF list of articles

Cvetkovich, G., & Earle, T. C. (Eds.). (1992). Public responses to environmental hazards. Journal of Social Issues, 48(4). Click here for PDF list of articles

Seligman, C., & Syme, G. J. (Eds.). (1989). Managing the environment. Journal of Social Issues, 45(1). Click here for PDF list of articles


Volume 19(2), 2014 of European Psycholgist contains a special section on environmental conservation, including articles by Andreas Ernst, Urs Wenzel, Tommy Gärling, P. Wesley Schultz, Siegmar Otto, Oliver Arnold, John Thøgersen, and Florian Kaiser. Click here for PDF of article titles

The July/August, 2005 issue of Monitor on Psychology, 36(7) includes an article by Jamie Chamberlin about conservation psychology called "A closer look at Division 34: The call of the wild." Click here to view article.

In 2001, Division 34 of the American Psychological Association devoted an issue of its Population and Environment Bulletin to the topic of conservation psychology. Click here to view a PDF of this issue.

Volume 41(2), 2001 of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology is a special issue on ecopsychology with articles by Jeremy Yunt, Ruth Richards, Linda Riebel, Mark Pilisuk, and James Kuhn. Click here for PDF of article titles

The April, 2001 issue of APA's Monitor on Psychology, 32(4) contains a collection of articles by Rebecca Clay on the "Greening of psychology: Psychologists' burgeoning work in the field of eco-friendly behaviors." Topics include the psychological benefits of natural spaces, behavioral research on encouraging environmentally friendly behavior, human dimensions of forest management, environmentally related community service by psychologists, the greening of the American Psychological Association, and consumerism. Click here to view this issue.

The American Psychologist, 2000, 55(5), section on Psychology in the Public Forum includes articles on psychology's role in promoting sustainability by Stuart Oskamp, George Howard, Deborah DuNann Winter, Paul Stern, and Doug McKenzie-Mohr. Click here for PDF of article titles

Volume 26(1-3), 1998, of the journal Humanistic Psychologist is a special issue on ecopsychology, edited by Elizabeth Roberts. It includes articles by Roberts, Laura Sewall, Mitchell Thomashow, Sarah Conn, Allen Kanner, Carl Anthony & Renee Soule, Theo Horesh, Crystal Feral, Mary Gomes, Chris Hoffman, Steven Foster, John David, Matthew Day, and Ralph Metzner Click here for PDF of articles

Volume 15(3), 1995, of the Journal of Environmental Psychology is a special issue on "Green psychology" edited by Robert Gifford. It includes articles by Stephen Kaplan, Lawrence Axelrod & Peter Suedfeld, Carol Werner, Alexander Grob, Anders Biel & Tommy Gärling, and Joseph Reser. Click here for PDF of articles

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About the Authors

Photo of Dr. Britain ScottBritain A. Scott, PhD is Professor of Psychology and former Director of Environmental Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, where she has taught since 1996. Britain enthusiastically advocates curricular integration of psychology and environmental education. As a social psychologist, her current scholarly focus is on the ecologically-connected self as a potential antidote to the negative consequences of women's bodily objectification in consumer culture. More about Britain can be found here.

Department of Psychology
University of St. Thomas
2115 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

Photo of Dr. Susan KogerSusan M. Koger, PhD is Professor of Psychology at Willamette University in Salem, OR, where she has taught since 1993. Sue's work focuses on psychology as an environmental science, and she co-authored The Psychology of Environmental Problems with Deborah Winter (2004, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates). As a physiological psychologist, she is particularly interested in the effects of environmental toxins on brain development and function. More about Sue can be found here.

Department of Psychology
Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem, OR 97301

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List of Contributors

John Adams
Professor and Chair
Saybrook Graduate School
Berkely, CA

Stephanie Allard
Ph. D. Candidate, Psychology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA

Elise L. Amel
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, MN

Cay Anderson-Hanley
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Union College
Schenectady, NY

Amara Brook
Assistant Professor
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, CA

Wernher M. Brucks
Lecturer, Social Psychology
University of Zurich

David Campbell
Professor of Psycholgy
Humboldt State University
Arcata, CA

Craig Chalquist
Faculty member
School of Holistic Studies
JFK University
San Francisco, CA

Peter Cock
Senior Lecturer
School of Geography and Environmental Science
Monash University

Michael Cohen
Director, Project NatureConnect
Friday Harbor, WA

Sarah Conn
Psychology lecturer
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Julie Devlin
Ph. D. candidate
University of New Brunswick

Raymond DeYoung
Associate Professor of Conservation Behavior
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

Sorah Dubitsky
Instructor, Psychology Department
Biscayne Bay Campus
Florida International University
Miami, FL

Riley E. Dunlap
Department of Sociology
CLB 011
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK

John Fraser
Adjunct Lecturer
Hunter College of City University New York
Psychology Department
New York, NY

Neil Gowensmith
Forensic Psychologist
Adult Mental Health Division, State of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI

Laurie Hollis-Walker, M.A.
Ph. D. candidate, clinical psychology
York University
Toronto, Canada

Peter Kahn
Professor of Psychology
University of Washington
Seattle, WA

Christie Manning
Research Fellow and Adjunct Faculty Member
Hamline University Center for Global Environmental Education
St. Paul, MN

Terry Maple
Director, Georgia Tech Center for Conservation & Behavior
Director Emeritus, Zoo Atlanta
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA

Donna K. McMillan
Assistant Professor of Psychology
St. Olaf College
Northfield, MN

Olin Eugene (Gene) Myers
Associate Professor
Huxley College of the Environment
Western Washington University
Bellingham, WA

Guy L. Osborne
Professor of Psychology
Director, Environment & Community Stewardship program
Carson-Newman College
Jefferson City, TN

Mark Pilisuk
Saybrook Graduate School
Berkeley, CA

Linda Riebel
Faculty member
Saybrook Graduate School
Berkeley, CA

Bob Riesenberg
Whatcom Community College
Bellingham, WA

Werner Sattmann-Frese
Private Practitioner
Sustainable Living for a Sustainable Earth
Wagstaffe, New South Wales

P. Wesley Schultz
Associate Professor
California State University-- San Marcos

Sylvie Shaw
School of Political and Social Inquiry
Monash University

JoAnne Vining
Associate Professor of Environmental Psychology
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL

Deborah DuNann Winter
Professor of Psychology
Whitman College
Walla Walla, WA

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