Conference paper

The crucial role of private domestic gardens in achieving sustainable cities: a model linking the person, Maslow’s Hierarchy and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to sustainably meeting ecological and human needs

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Over the past few decades, the act of engaging people in achieving sustainable cities has focused upon changing environmental values, predominantly through social networks and, increasingly, social practices. Despite increasingly higher levels of environmental awareness within the community, and reasonably consistent levels of community involvement in voluntary activities, there has been little improvement in the environmental condition of our urban fabric. A number of factors are responsible; environmental values generally do not generate the values that determine people’s pro-environmental behaviour or their positive environmental impact; environmental characteristics typically investigated by the social sciences are not those that have the most significant impact on the environment; and, only about 1% of the general community are involved in volunteer environmental programs. It now appears that personality traits, which are more influential in daily decisions than values, have a greater impact upon people’s behaviour. Yet very few approaches to engaging people in achieving sustainable cities have focused on personality traits. Likewise, despite concerted efforts to increase engagement in improving sustainability, primarily in the public domain, the place where most people are most engaged with the environment is in their private domestic garden hidden behind the front fence. This paper reports on a preliminary model to be used in four Geelong neighbourhoods to assess activities people undertake in their garden, which of these are most important, the extent of involvement in activities in their garden that have significant positive environmental impacts and whether the sorts of activities undertaken are associated with particular personality traits.

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