Series: Sustainability and You

Tomer Joshua

Environmental Psychology

December 2015

My Journey towards Subjective Self-Awareness

I grew up in the desert in Israel and spent a lot of my time outdoors. I had a strong connection to nature, always thinking about behaving in a way that will benefit the environment. Then, four years ago, I moved to New York City. Over time, NYC wore out my pro-environmental behaviors. As is customary for a New York lifestyle, I became more concerned with what is convenient, and would get me what I need, fast.

Then, this semester for class, I was asked to choose a pro-environmental behavior to commit to for a few months. I chose to conserve energy at home through turning off lights and minimizing the use of heating and AC. During the semester, I kept track of my behaviors and used an incentive system to encourage myself to keep my commitment.

The reason I chose energy conservation is because it is directly related to climate change – three quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change in NYC come from heating, cooling and powering buildings (Cho, 2015).

Throughout the semester, I only forgot to turn the lights off once.

How did I manage?

Reflecting on what I learned, I realized that throughout the semester, my self-awareness shifted away from being focused only on myself to being focused on myself as part of the environment. This reflects Frantz’s (2005) self-awareness theory which says that we have two different types of self-awareness: Objective (self is separate from the environment) and Subjective (self as part of the environment). The increase in my subjective self-awareness increased my connectedness to nature and resulted in me feeling like I have a greater impact on the environment. This made it easier for me to engage in my chosen behavior.

This mindset shift is critical if we want to make a positive impact on our planet. The question is, how can we get more people on board?



Cho, Renee. (2015, September 29). How much energy does NYC waste? PHYS Org. Retrieved November 21, 2015, from

Frantz, et al. (2005). There is no “I” in nature: The influence of self-awareness on connectedness to nature. In Journal of Environmental Psychology, 427-435.