Green norms across borders: migration and pro-environmental behaviour

Past project (2015-2016) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The main purpose of this fellowship is to carry out primary research on the relationship between China-to-UK student migration and pro-environmental behaviour change, as outlined in the section below. The field of behaviour change is one which is attracting increasing attention from academics, the private sector and policy-makers. However, one neglected aspect in this field is a thorough examination of how different cultures might react to behaviour change interventions, and how migrants might react to interventions in a foreign or ‘host’ country.

When students leave home to study, they are likely to change many aspects of their behaviour, and adapt and develop many of their attitudes and values as well. Some of these changes may be enduring and profound. When students migrate to a new country, such changes can be even more dramatic. This project will look specifically at behaviours and attitudes which relate to environmental impacts, such as energy use, transport choices, and waste disposal, and specifically at Chinese students who come to study in the UK. In my own previous research, Chinese students who had come to the UK to study reported finding themselves in a country with a stronger culture of ‘being green’ than they had been used to back home. Interestingly, many of them said that they had changed many of their green behaviours. In my sample of Chinese students in Southampton, many reported recycling more, saving energy and using greener transport options, often out of a desire to ‘fit in’ with their non-Chinese peers. Two questions arise from this. Firstly, given that there are many Chinese students in the UK, how can we try to encourage more green behaviour among this significant student cohort? Secondly, what happens when students go back to China? Does the green behaviour change endure, or is it lost? These are the questions this research project seeks to answer.

Tristan Berchoux
Lecturer in Rural Geography

My principal research interests lie in the field of spatial planning and sustainable rural development.