Monday, November 13, 2023
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Applying Social Norms to Increasing Sustainable Cooling Behaviors in Chinese Offices
Session ID
A1 - Lightning: Snapshots of Program Design and Implementation in Diverse Contexts
Behavior - based Programs
Guanyu Yang

Considering the alarming energy demand for cooling related to climate change, and seeking sustainable cooling alternatives to over-reliance on air conditioning, our study is the first attempt to apply social norm nudges on two cooling behaviors – lighter clothing and the use of personal cooling devices. To examine and compare the effectiveness of a descriptive norm message, an injunctive norm signal from leadership and the two norms combined, we conducted an online randomized controlled survey experiment among financial employees (n=835) in offices in Guangdong Province, China. We measured their behavioral intentions of clothing and personal cooling use before and after the intervention, and their level of commitment to these behaviors as an alternative outcome. We found that the control condition already increased our desired behavioral intentions – by merely presenting educational information and hypothetically slightly raising AC setpoints. However, our difference-in-differences result fails to support the effectiveness of adding normative information compared to the control condition for both behavioral intentions, except when both norms combined did nudge participants toward selecting lighter work clothes. In terms of commitment, there is only promise in using both norms to boost commitment to lighter clothing, while using only one norm could lead to unintended effects; commitment to using personal cooling devices more was not affected by any of the norm conditions. These mixed findings present a cautionary tale for designing social norm interventions in office spaces and highlight the boundaries of their effectiveness in the field of energy use.

Supporting Document 1