How do we make the shift to a Sustainable Mindset?


Sustainable development does not only mean that natural resources are used in a way that basic needs are fulfilled in the long term. It’s also about allowing the Good Life. A Good Life offers all life on earth the possibility to flourish. Ehrenfeld even states that “sustainability is the possibility that human and other life will flourish on the planet forever” [1]. Without changing the mindset this is impossible to achieve [1].

Connections between the mindset and sustainability

The discussion about the connection of the mindset and sustainable development is increasingly attracting attention in the scientific community. Some authors argue that we are not facing an economical, technological, ecological and political crisis, but a philosophical, psychological, cultural and spiritual one [2, 3]. This crisis, as some philosophers argue, is the consequence of the current mindset [4, 5]. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found out that our mindset is responsible for the way we think and act [6]. These insights can be used with respect to the transformation towards sustainability.

Various studies reveal that skills like awareness, compassion, empathy, resilience and non-material values, which are all part of a mindset, have an influence on our sustainable behaviour [7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Moreover these skills increase our personal-wellbeing and hence allow the individual not only to flourish, but also to act more sustainably [12, 13].

How to change the mindset

To support and research this change of the mindset, towards a, from now on called, Sustainable Mindset, is the goal of a planned research project called “Transformational Training for a Sustainable Mindset”.

Within the project it will be researched how a Sustainable Mindset can be encouraged.

In a weekly training, 16 to 20 participants will be educated over a period of six months in the above named skills through various methods like systematic coaching, meditation, yoga, communication training and improvisation training. Moreover, basic information about sustainability will be part of the training program.

It can be expected that the learned skills not only change the lives of the individual for the better, but that the individual also starts acting in a way that supports a sustainable development.

At the end of the project the following questions will be answered through accompanying action research:

Which methods can be used to support a Sustainable Mindset?

Which additional factors are important for a Sustainable Mindset?

What is the actual impact of a Sustainable Mindset?





  1. Ehrenfeld, J. (2008). Sustainability by Design. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  2. Hulme, M. (2009). Why we disagree about climate change. Cambridge University Press.
  3. O’Brien, K., Clair, A. L. St., & Kristoffersen, B. (2010). The framing of climate change: Why it matters. In Climate Change, Ethics and Human Security (pp. 3–22). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Cioran, E. (1989). Auf den Gipfeln der Verzweifelung. Frankfurt am Main.
  5. Held, D. (1980). Introduction to Critcal Theory, horkheimer to Habermas. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Universiy of California Press.
  6. Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset – How you can fulful your potential. New York: Ballentine Books.
  7. Jacob, J., Jovic, E., & Brinkerhoff, M. B. (2009). Personal and Planetary Well-being: Mindfulness Meditation, Pro-environmental Behavior and Personal Quality of Life in a Survey from the Social Justice and Ecological Sustainability Movement. Social Indicators Research, 93(2), 275–294.
  8. Hüther, G. (2013). Was wir sind und was wir sein könnten. Fischer e-books.
  9. Singer, T., & Ricard, M. (2015). Mitgefühl in der Wirtschaft. München: Albrecht Knaus Verlag.
  10. WBGU. (2014). Klimaschutz als Weltbürgerbewegung.
  11. Maiteny, P. (2002). Mind in the Gap : Summary of a research project exploring ’ inner ’ influences on pro-sustainability learning and behaviour Mind in the Gap : Summary of a research project exploring ’ inner ’ influences on pro-sustainability learning and behaviour, 8(3), 1–8.
  12. Amel, E., Manning, C., & Scott, B. (2009). Mindfulness and sustainable behavior – pondering attention and awareness as means for increasing green behavior. Ecopsychology, 1(1), 14–25.
  13. Kasser, T. (2002). The high price for materialism. (A. G. Services, Ed.) (1st ed.). USA.

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