The Psychological Barriers to Green with Simran Sethi – show 38

How do you get people to care about green? Hint: It’s not talking about the polar bears, rising sea levels or carbon emissions. According to Simran Sethi, it’s about meeting people where they are and reframing these issues within the context of issues they care about. So instead of “organics” being an environmental issue, reframe it as a public health issue so that “everyone can understand it,” she says.

Simran is right in the middle of co-authoring a book about the psychological barriers to environmental engagement and I was fortunate enough to pull her away from her computer to talk to me about this important subject. Weighing in on this topic in her book are public figures such as Robert Redford and Newt Gingrich along with a number of behavioral psychologists helping uncover why widespread information has not resulted in widespread engagement. If you think this topic is juicy, just wait until you hear Simran speak about it.

Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where she currently teaches courses on sustainability and environmental communications and diversity in media. Simran is the contributing author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, winner of the bronze 2008 Axiom Award for Best Business Ethics Book. She is also the founding host/writer of Sundance Channel’s environmental programming The Green and the creator of the Sundance online series The Good Fight, highlighting global environmental justice efforts and grassroots activism.

Named one of the top ten eco-heroes of the planet by the UK’s Independent and lauded as the “environmental messenger” by Vanity Fair and “environmental woman of impact” by Daily Variety, Simran has contributed numerous segments to Nightly News with Brian Williams, CNBC, PBS, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and the Today Show; and appeared on MSNBC, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Martha Stewart Show and History Channel. She is committed to a redefinition of environmentalism that includes voices from the prairie, the inner city and the global community.

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  1. As a green politician, I can tell you that the main barrier to Green is that people do not want to give anything up. They do not want to accept less than their current standard of living, but just want everything to right itself. That is the barrier to acceptance of global warming for the past 30 years.

    And the clincher is of course population… no-one wants to talk about that. In truth, we are like an invasive organism that is killing off its host. However, when the fox gets itchy it goes into the river and the fleas all drown.

  2. This is the exact model of the Greenspiration Home publication!

    The decisions we make (or don’t make) about our homes’ construction and interior impact our health, our pocketbook, and our planet. But who is educating women about these issues in a way that is meaningful to THEM?

    I agree, the message has to be reshaped for them — starting with how a particular decision, no matter how mundane or technical, does in fact ultimately impact them or their family.

  3. Thank you so much Simran, this is something I’m trying to figure out, i.e. a better way to approach our communities (as the terminology is sometimes a turn-off & most common actions are quick solutions that help but barely scratch the surface–as we’re often missing the repeat bit or continued action or follow-up). Granted, governments have some responsibilities, but I think more can be accomplished & understood as to why it’s not only important, but essential to our well-being (minus the eco-vangelism, of course). Thank you for your insight & suggestions on twitter too! On that note, I cannot wait for your book–please keep writing!

  4. Thanks for these comments. I really appreciate the tension and the insights above into managing those tensions. If you wish to chart my journey with the book, please follow me on Twitter @simransethi or learn more about my work at
    My best,

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