INFEWST3: Reducing Household Food Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Intervent ions and Impacts of Conservation

Project: Research project

Project Details


INFEWS/T3: Climate Change Mitigation via Reducing Household Food, Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation
Accounting for direct and indirect energy usage, U.S. households consume the majority of all energy produced and account for a significant share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The GHG intensity of the U.S. household has highlighted the opportunity for household actions to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change. There are a number of voluntary energy conservation actions that could reduce direct household GHG emissions, and water conservation and dietary changes could reduce indirect energy use significantly. Although the level, structure, and rate of change of resource prices are often thought of as the most effective way to reduce consumption, there is increasing evidence that non-price interventions can be equally effective. In this study we will focus on testing the relative impact of several kinds of feedback on household consumption behaviors, including: a) tailored information about the households FEWs consumption for each sector alone, b) information that translates consumption in the FEWs sector into GHG impacts; c) a social norm intervention whereby households are provided comparative consumption information; d) information about how to reduce consumption in each sector; and e) information about the larger impacts of their FEWs consumption in terms of both climate change and equity.
To investigate means of reducing household consumption patterns within FEWs, this study will employ a mixed methodology social science approach. These methodologies will allow us to iteratively examine potential interventions for impacting household resource consumption, test possible intervention strategies, and inform the development of systems models to look at the impacts of households as FEWs metabolizers on resource flows, production, and consumption cycles. The iterative research design will employ the following methodologies: stage one will involve developing and conducting role playing game activities and qualitative interviews with homeowners; these activities will inform stage two, a survey of households to examine existing attitudes and behaviors related to household resource consumption, as well as possible means and barriers to reducing resource consumption. This survey will also provide an opportunity to experimentally test a number of interventions that may ultimately be used in the final stage of the study. Stage three will involve conducting experimental interventions in residential households in two case study communities, chosen for representing typical U.S. (suburban) households and for their value in comparative experimental design. All three stages will work together to improve understanding of potential ways to reduce household food, energy, and water consumption and to provide empirical data for the development of systems models of consumption across the FEWs nexus.
To provide feedback to consumers, a user-friendly software tool will be developed based on the concept of persuasive technology. The tool will collect a variety of data on individual household consumption (electricity, gas, water and groceries) and present these data to users at multiple levels of abstraction. The feedback tool will link to an environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) database, to be developed specifically for FEWs household consumption during stages one and two of the project. The impact database will extend existing LCA databases through more heterogeneous, spatially explicit data on water withdrawals, energy generation, and agricultural production than is currently available for such analyses.
The broader impacts of the project will include insights to household consumption behavior and cost-effective interventions to conserve energy and water resources and reduce GHG emissions. In addition, information about how attitudes and behaviors may be affected by technology options can inform food, energy, and water policy making. The household consumption tracking tool will be general purpose and publicly available tool for all consumers at the end of the project. The role-playing game will also be publicly available, and documentation of its application during the project can serve to inform future education and outreach activities. Focus will be placed on recruiting, training, and graduating students from underrepresented groups for participation in the project, including student exchanges among the partnering US universities and one or more universities in the Netherlands
Effective start/end date10/1/169/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $294,417.00


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