Making users more efficient: Design for sustainable behaviour

International Journal of Sustainable Engineering I’m pleased to say that a paper I wrote earlier this year has been accepted by the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering, a new journal based at Loughborough University. The publishers (Taylor & Francis) allow authors to post a preprint* version online, so here it is.

Making the user more efficient: Design for sustainable behaviour [PDF, 160kb] is a brief review of approaches to designing products and systems which could shape or change users’ behaviour in an environmentally friendly way; if you’ve followed this blog, there’s probably little new in it, but it’s (hopefully) a useful summary. (At present that PDF is hosted on this website, but once Brunel allows me access to deposit papers in its institutional repository, BURA, I’ll change the above link. UPDATED: Changed link 2nd May)

Abstract: User behaviour is a significant determinant of a product’s environmental impact; while engineering advances permit increased efficiency of product operation, the user’s decisions and habits ultimately have a major effect on the energy or other resources used by the product. There is thus a need to change users’ behaviour. A range of design techniques developed in diverse contexts suggest opportunities for engineers, designers and other stakeholders working in the field of sustainable innovation to affect users’ behaviour at the point of interaction with the product or system, in effect ‘making the user more efficient’.

Approaches to changing users’ behaviour from a number of fields are reviewed and discussed, including: strategic design of affordances and behaviour-shaping constraints to control or affect energy or other resource-using interactions; the use of different kinds of feedback and persuasive technology techniques to encourage or guide users to reduce their environmental impact; and context-based systems which use feedback to adjust their behaviour to run at optimum efficiency and reduce the opportunity for user-affected inefficiency. Example implementations in the sustainable engineering and ecodesign field are suggested and discussed.

Keywords: ecodesign; sustainability; managing use; managing consumption;
behaviour change; sustainable innovation; persuasive technology

Until it appears in the journal (probably towards the end of 2008) I’m not sure what the guidance is on referencing, but something like Lockton, D., Harrison, D.J., Stanton, N.A. (2008) ‘Making the user more efficient: Design for sustainable behaviour’, To appear in: International Journal of Sustainable Engineering (forthcoming) is probably about right.

*Required disclaimer:

This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form will be published in the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering. © 2008 Taylor & Francis; International Journal of Sustainable Engineering is available online at:


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