Urban values and behaviours

The following social research projects were commissioned by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board to look at what people think about the environment, and to better understand:

  • what actions people have taken
  • why they undertook those actions
  • what were the barriers to taking action
  • how government can better support people to take action.

The findings are summarised across four reports.

SA and the Environment – full report

In 2016, we commissioned an independent survey of 1000 South Australians to explore the barriers and benefits of environmental stewardship.

This was the first survey of its kind in the state, and these results helped us develop community engagement programs that support positive actions and connections between people and the environment.

Interesting finds:

  • 94% of South Australians believed ‘conserving the natural environment is of critical importance’
  • The most common motivators to undertake environmentally friendly behaviours were having a general concern for the environment, to save money and other personal benefits.

Take a look at this video presentation of the survey findings:


Also see the:

This survey will become a longitudinal values and behaviour study to be repeated every 3-4 years. It will provide monitoring and evaluation evidence that links the effectiveness of environmental programs with increased community awareness and participation.

SA and the Environment – metropolitan Adelaide focus

In 2018, the survey data was reassessed to focus on responses from people who lived in metropolitan Adelaide only, to help inform community focussed programs.

Results were categorised by ‘whole metropolitan Adelaide’, as well as by each climate change adaptation council cluster (Resilient South, Adapt West, etc.).

This reassessment also connected findings with climate change perception surveys that several southern councils undertook with their communities.

Interesting finds:

  • Across metro Adelaide, people were most interested in learning about plants and animals (30% on average).
  • By council cluster, they were also interested in learning about the following topics (topics reaching 10% or more listed here):
    • North – waste and sustainability (16%), marine (15%), food (13%), water (12%)
    • South – marine (21%), water (11%)
    • East – energy (16%), marine (15%), waste and sustainability (10%)
    • West – marine (24%), energy (20%), waste and sustainability (12%)
    • Adelaide Hills – energy (10%).

See the full report Diving deeper in the South Australians and the Environment Survey to learn more.

‘Sustainability’ views and actions: focus groups

During 2018 we also commissioned two focus groups (‘over 40s’ and ‘under 40s’) to learn about what people thought of sustainability, as well as barriers and motivations around specific behaviours.

Each focus group selected two behaviours to explore and looked at barriers to undertaking those behaviours, what motivated people to take on that action, and ideas on messaging.

Actions explored included:

  • talking about sustainable living with others
  • collecting and reusing rainwater
  • composting food and garden waste.

Interesting finds:

  • When communicating with friends and family, participants preferred to talk about specific actions rather than ‘sustainability’ as a general topic.
  • Effective sustainability messaging should promote personal benefits, be quick to process, and include visual elements.

See the full report Community views on sustainable behaviours.

Behaviour changes from urban courses and workshops

In 2018 we commissioned interviews with 50 people who had taken part in one of our urban sustainability courses, workshops or events.

We interviewed 25 graduates of Living Smart, our sustainable living course, and 25 past participants of a workshop or event run by the NRM levy funded, city-based, community natural resource centre: the Adelaide Sustainability Centre.

We wanted to find out:

  • what actions participants had taken and maintained
  • their barriers and motivators.

Interesting finds:

  • 80% of participants took personal action as a result of attending a course/event
  • 92% maintained the behaviour after 12 months
  • 94% of interviewees preferred to learn through hands-on activities.

See the full report Outcomes of Living Smart courses and Adelaide Sustainability Centre events.

Related links

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges