'A drop in the bucket': Collective efficacy perceptions and environmental behaviour

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Council of Social Service

Place of Publication



Computing, Health and Science


Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science




This article was originally published as

Bonniface, L., & Henley, N. (2008). 'A drop in the bucket': collective efficacy perceptions and environmental behaviour. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 43(3), 345.

Original article available here


Environmental degradation is a complex problem, many aspects of which may not be solved unless collective effort is undertaken. Collective Efficacy theory provides a useful framework to investigate how people view their ability and the effectiveness of their actions to solve environmental problems, which has been largely overlooked until now. Six focus groups were conducted to explore efficacy beliefs expressed by environmental Activists and Non-Activists in Perth, Western Australia, relating to waste management. All participants (n=38) expressed pessimistic views about the abilities of others to perform pro-environmental behaviours. However, Activists were positive that a collective effort would be effective ('many drops will fill up the bucket') while Non-Activists felt strongly that the problem would still exist even if everyone performed waste-minimising behaviours ('it's just a drop in the bucket'). Behaviour change interventions might be more effective if they focus on convincing people that collective effort will be effective in solving environmental problems.

Access Rights

open access