Utilizing a Social-Ecological Framework to Promote Water and Energy Conservation: A Field Experiment1


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    This study was conducted with the support of the city of Melville, a local council in Perth, Western Australia. The authors thank the council for their contributions to the project, and particularly thank Brian Keating for his assistance. While preparing this paper, the first author was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) scholarship and a Murdoch University Strategic Research Scholarship. An earlier version of the paper was presented at the fourth biennial convention of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 2002. The authors wish to acknowledge Eleanor O'Brien as well as two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on earlier versions of the paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tim Kurz, who is now at Division of Psychology, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, United Kingdom. E-mail: tim.kurz@ncl.ac.uk


The present study utilized a social-ecological framework to design an intervention to reduce residential water and energy use in a local community. An experimental design was used to study the influence of information leaflets, attunement labels, and socially comparative feedback on the actual levels of energy and water consumption in 166 households over a 6-month period. The results suggest that the labels, designed to attune residents to the environmental-impact affordances of various appliances around their homes, led to a 23% reduction in water consumption. Neither information leaflets nor socially comparative feedback produced significant reductions in water use, compared to controls. No significant reductions in energy consumption were observed for any of the intervention conditions. The results are discussed in terms of their theoretical implications and their application to public policy promoting environmentally sustainable behavior.