Climate Action Series 1: Sustainable Behaviour

On March 27, 2024, Insights North East launched its first Climate Action Series on Sustainable Behaviour. Hosted in the Armstrong Building at Newcastle University, the seminar explored the complex relationship between environmental design and behavioural psychology, offering insights into how we can shape a more sustainable future. 

The seminar brought together leading experts like Professor Helen Goworek from Durham University, Dr. Luca Panzone from Newcastle University, Dr. Ayse Ozbil Torun from Northumbria University, and Dr. Stephanie Wilkie from the University of Sunderland. Each speaker shared their research and insights, covering a wide array of topics from sustainable fashion and urban environments to consumer behaviour and the psychological underpinnings of our interaction with the environment. 

Professor Helen Goworek on circular economy in clothing industry

Professor Goworek opened the discussions with an overview of sustainable development and its implications for the fashion industry. She emphasized the need for a shift towards a circular economy, suggesting that changes in business models and organisational strategies could significantly reduce environmental impact.  

Professor Helen Goworek is the MSc Marketing Programme Director at Durham University Business School, with prior academic positions at Leicester University and a background in fashion business design management and buying. Her academic work, which includes organizing conferences and workshops on marketing, innovation, and sustainability, spans several publications and leadership roles in research projects funded by DEFRA. Helen’s teaching and research focus on marketing and sustainability, areas in which she has authored various books, journal articles, and book chapters.  

Dr Ozbil Torun on the role of design in health and well-being

Dr. Ozbil Torun then took the stage to discuss the role of urban design in promoting sustainable behaviors, highlighting her research on how the design of urban spaces can influence public health and children’s well-being. She shared findings that green spaces and safe environments encourage more active lifestyles and better health outcomes. 

Dr. Ayse Ozbil Torun is an Associate Professor at Northumbria University’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment, trained as an architect with expertise in spatial modeling and urban form analysis to address sustainability and human well-being. Her research, including a British Academy-funded project on the built environment’s impact on children’s mental health, focuses on designing pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that promote public health and active transportation. Since 2014, she has led and contributed to six research grants exploring urban walkability and its effects on health and neighborhood quality, resulting in over 50 peer-reviewed publications. 

Dr Luca Panzone on encouraging sustainable consumption

Dr. Panzone’s presentation delved into consumer behaviour, particularly in food systems. He addressed the sustainability challenges posed by excessive consumer choices and the resulting overconsumption. By employing strategies like gamification and carbon footprint tracking, he suggested that it’s possible to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns among individuals. 

Dr. Luca Panzone is a Senior Lecturer in Consumer Behaviour at Newcastle University, specializing as an applied economist in the analysis of social problems related to agriculture, food, and the environment. His research examines the motivations behind consumers’ environmentally friendly choices in retail settings and how store structures can facilitate transitions to low-carbon consumption. Additionally, he designs and tests experimental public policy and marketing interventions aimed at enhancing the environmental quality of consumer purchases. 

Dr Stephanie Wilkie on the connection of identity on sustainable behaviours

Dr. Wilkie contributed a psychological perspective, explaining how identity and place attachment influence environmental behaviours. She argued that fostering a strong connection with nature could lead to more sustainable lifestyle choices, as people tend to care for and protect what they feel connected to. 

Dr. Stephanie Wilkie is an Associate Professor in Environmental Psychology at the University of Sunderland, where her research examines the impact of urban green spaces and both built and natural environments on health and well-being, particularly through the perspective of place-related identities. Her work extends into health behavior change, air quality, and promoting engagement with nature to increase physical activity. Additionally, she is skilled in research methods and advanced statistics, having conducted large-scale studies for the US government. 

This seminar did more than just present research; it offered a roadmap for integrating sustainable practices into our lives and communities. The discussions highlighted that sustainability is not just an environmental concern but a complex interplay of cultural, economic, and psychological factors. By understanding these relationships, we can develop more effective strategies to promote sustainable living. 

As we reflect on the messages from the seminar, it’s clear that achieving sustainability requires a collective effort. It calls for strategic alignments across different sectors and disciplines, as well as a deeper understanding of human behaviour. This first Climate Action Seminar has laid the groundwork for this comprehensive approach, challenging us to think critically about our role in the broader ecosystem and how we can contribute to a sustainable future. It provided valuable perspectives on how we can align our behaviours with environmental sustainability goals. Through continued dialogue, research, and community engagement, we can take meaningful steps towards a greener, more sustainable world.