Reconnecting with nature ‘triggers’ eco-actions

View across to the centre of London from Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath (BBC)
Image caption The study suggests there is a strong link between exposure to nature and behaving in a sustainable manner

People who have access to nature or urban green spaces are much more likely to behave in environmentally friendly ways, a study suggests.

Researchers used a representative sample of 24,000 people in England for their study of green behaviour.

The findings also showed that people who were not exposed to green spaces were less likely to adopt green behaviours, such as recycling.

The findings will appear in the journal Environment International.

The team of scientists from South-West England found that the link between access to green spaces and a greater level of green behaviour was true across the social board, whether it was older people, younger people, rich or poor, male or female.

“The message that we want to get out is that reconnecting with nature may promote sustainable behaviour,” explained co-author Ian Alcock from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter.

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Dr Alcock explained that previous studies had highlighted a link that if people had more connections to nature, they were more likely to make more green choices.

“But the evidence came from small-scale experiments and from small-scale surveys,” he told BBC News.

Image caption In order to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour, policymakers should look to ensure access to green spaces in towns and cities

“What we wanted to do was to test that idea on a large scale, so we took a large nationally representative sample of the population of England.

People who took part in the study were asked a range of questions, such as whether they recycled, bought eco-friendly brands, bought local or seasonal produce etc.

“People who made more nature visits were more likely to engage in recycling and more likely to engage in green travel and were more likely to engage in environmental volunteering.

“The take-home message for policymakers is that we should encourage these active exposures to nature in order to encourage greater environmentalism.

“What this suggests to us, from a policy viewpoint, is that there should be efforts to increase contact through improving both social participation also through the physical infrastructure, through promises to improve access to natural spaces in urban settings.

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