Exploring the effects of personal impact communicated through eco-feedback technology for reducing food waste

Eco-feedback technology focuses on communicating feedback on individual behavior to reduce environmental impact. This field has explored various forms of eco-feedback such as ambient displays, mobile phone applications, desktop games, and interactive machines with the goal of reducing carbon footprints and electricity or thermostat usage. Many eco-feedback technologies provide data on environmental impact (carbon, electricity usage, waste) to an individual in a detached form, with usually no connection to personal impact. The dominant approach on eco-feedback technology has focused on highlighting the benefits to others or nature, rather than appealing to self-interest. While data on carbon footprints, amount of waste, and electricity usage can create a feeling of guilt, it is often hard for the people who are less motivated for pro-environmental impact create a direct connection from theses metrics to their personal lives to behavioral change. Yet, environmental psychology research states that communicating personal impact can be effective in promoting pro-environmental behaviors for people who tend to be more self-interested. While there have been studies that have used social networks and cultural context for promoting sustainable lifestyles , there are a lack of papers that look into using stronger personal motivators. Eco-feedback technology faces challenges in helping link feedback data to personal motivation for the individual. Additionally, there is more to understand with how specific the information presented by eco-feedback technology should be. It is questionable whether presenting people with specific information will be effective even when there is little motivation involved. While some studies suggest that information can inspire motivation, other suggest that many users “do not want to spend a lot of time reading text or interpreting graphs”. There is also a lack of research on how different levels of specific visualizations can be used in accordance with each other. For example, simple data visualizations showing total wasted cost can be effective for instigating initial interest but the lack detail in the information it provides can be troubling for users who wish to formulate specific plans to solve the issue. This paper looks into how different data presentations in eco-feedback technology can motivate users to reduce food waste. We look into the outcomes of communicating food waste information through data visualizations with differing levels of personal impact and specificity for a duration of a week. The findings in this research will fill the knowledge gap for understanding what effective eco-feedback data visualizations should communicate to promote personal food waste reduction.

Design Psychology Entry Level