Design for Sustainable Behaviour: A Toolbox for Targeting the Use Phase
Conference contribution, 2014
Several studies have concluded that the use phase, including people’s use behaviour, is a large contributor to the environmental impact of many products. Some eco-design tools mention the use phase as a possible target area, but there is a lack of methods that specifically address how to lower its environmental impact. Thus, this contribution presents a toolbox that enables companies to influence user behaviour to reduce the negative environmental impact during the use phase; we call this the Design for Sustainable Behaviour (DfSB) toolbox. The main tool in the toolbox comprises five types of strategies for the design of products and services. Enlighten strategies influence users’ knowledge, values, attitudes and norms, e.g. an eco-driving support system. Spur strategies encourage users to perform sustainable behaviours, e.g. through external rewards, punishments or competitions. Steer strategies guide users by making sustainable behaviour the evident choice, physically or cognitively, e.g. a refrigerator steering the placement of food to optimize preservation. Force strategies compel a sustainable behaviour upon the users, e.g. a washing machine that automatically adds the right amount of detergent. Match strategies adapt products and services to users’ current behaviours, e.g. start–stop systems in cars. A comparative study of different types of strategies shows that they have the potential to be effective in influencing users’ behaviour and to be accepted by consumers. The toolbox is utilized by employing its main tool and supporting tools (e.g. user studies and personas) in a design process focusing on users and their behaviour. This may mean a shift of eco-design efforts from later to earlier stages of the development process, which enables greater opportunities for radical environmental gain through design, as it is in the early stages that the environmental impact of products is largely determined. Different tools from the toolbox have been applied in a number of R&D cases in industry. For instance, Eliq Online, a home energy management system verified to support energy reductions have been developed by Exibea, and novel product concepts to reduce household’s energy use and to avoid food waste have been developed for IKEA and Electrolux. Apart from the evident advantage of encouraging sustainable behaviours, and thus reducing resource use, the DfSB toolbox can also spur innovation and provide a way to differentiate on saturated markets.
Design for Sustainable Behaviour