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Changing Behavior Toward Sustainable Consumption Habits with Eco-Feedback Technologies Through User Experiences: A case study on SUSLA carbon footprint calculator

  • Published on February 15, 2022

As individuals’ current consumption habits have unsustainable environmental impacts, there is a need for shift towards more sustainable lifestyles. One potential solution could be eco-feedback technologies (EFTs), which are designed to help its user recognize the environmental impact of their habits. The tool collects and analyses the user’s data and provides feedback to the user based on their habits. The goal of the feedback is to educate the user on their actions and shift their behavior towards more sustainable habits. However, EFTs struggle to reach this goal as changes in behavior are difficult to achieve. To better understand the reasons behind the problem, this thesis analyses a certain EFT tool from the perspective of user experience (UX) and evaluates what type of an effect it could have on the user’s behavior. The tool, SUSLA carbon footprint calculator (CFC), was analyzed based on its data collection, data analysis and feedback functionalities, which also the tool’s UX mainly comprises of.

The research was implemented as a case study and the data collection method used to discover the different aspects of using SUSLA was done through interviews on test users located across Finland. The interview results were analyzed with the help of an analytical framework. Based on the results, further design implications were provided for SUSLA.

The study results show that the UX of SUSLA could be developed further to motivate its users to change their behavior and make the calculator more enjoyable to use in the long term. In order to get more consistent users, the calculator should produce more thorough and versatile content to its user, e.g., educational videos on different sustainability themes. It should also provide them accurate and timely feedback on their habits, such as notifications regarding their daily consumption. Moreover, the data should be based on their actual consumption habits, meaning that the calculator should be integrated to different data sources, e.g., HSL, that provides relevant consumption data on the user, for example their transportation data.

However, as it seems that the CFC should become very advanced and accurate in order to better affect its user’s behavior, it is relevant to question its role in affecting consumer behavior altogether. Even though the calculator would become very intelligent, there are no guarantees that its user will change their consumption habits. However, it is noteworthy that the research conducted takes into account only one CFC. All in all, more research is needed especially when it comes to analyzing UXs indifferent types of EFTs.

In the coming decade, societies must adapt their activities to meet environmental limits. Finland, for example, has to transform from a welfare state into an eco-welfare state. At the same time, we must ensure that our political goals and the practical measures we take to achieve them are as just and socially acceptable as possible. The ORSI project is looking to address these challenges. In a collaboration of two Finnish universities and two research institutes, the research project examines changes in the policy instruments of the welfare state, seeks to identify effective and fair instruments in particular and generates information and tools in order to reach the goal. 

Several members of the D-mat staff have been contributing to the topic of Orchestrating Consumption of the ORSI project, implemented by Aalto University. In her study on calculating and tracking the environmental impact of everyday, Salla Lahtinen provided an overview of consumer-oriented footprint calculation tools in Finland. She found 40 different footprint calculators just in Finland, partly covering lifestyles as a whole and partly focusing on specific consumption domains (like mobility) or even sub-domains (like car-driving). Michael Lettenmeier has contributed in two peer-reviewed conference papers, one on enablers and barriers to organizations’ design of effective online footprint calculators for consumers and the other on the contribution of the SUSLA web app facilitating individuals’ transitions towards 1.5-degree lifestyles at a global scale. Annastina Saari worked on changing behaviour towards sustainable consumption habits with eco-feedback technologies through user experience. Daniel Leiviskä made a research on the social and well-being effects of 1.5-degree lifestyles by studying people that already live within the average lifestyle carbon budget left for 2030, 2.5 tonnes/cap./a. According to his study, low-carbon consumption was not equivalent to reduced well-being but rather the contrary: Among the over 400 survey respondents, quality of life had improved with a low-carbon lifestyle for two thirds, and stayed the same for one third.

So far, no country in the world has achieved high welfare on an ecologically sustainable basis. The ORSI project seeks to find ways for the Finnish society to proceed towards an eco-welfare state.


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