Technology's Four Roles in Understanding Individuals' Conservation of Natural Resources


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Cees Midden, Eindhoven University of Technology, Department of Human-Technology Interaction, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands [e-mail:].


An overview is presented of four ways in which human beings and technology interact with respect to the conservation of natural resources. The four roles technology plays are: (1) as intermediary, (2) as amplifier, (3) as determinant, and (4) as promoter of environmentally significant behavior. A review of pertinent literature supports the conclusion that behavioral scientists can contribute considerably to reducing overall environmental impact by analyzing human behavior and technology in concert. Problems and opportunities for interventions aimed to enhance resource conservation are discussed, such as rebound effects, allocation of control, and communication with users through technological-environmental and sensory inputs. A major conclusion is that well-designed technical environments, systems, and products have a great potential for supporting environmentally sustainable behavior.