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Small Steps to Sustainability: Changing Behavior

Line dry your clothes? Eat less sushi? What motivates people to change their behaviors for the greater good?

Small Steps to Sustainability Marilyn Cornelius (3rd year PhD) is working with TomRobinson (Medicine) and Carrie Armel (Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, which funds the project) to design and implement a climate change related behavior-change curriculum as a randomized controlled experiment at a California public high school. Preliminary results show that the curriculum is effective in changing behavior of those students who received the curriculum compared to control groups; that is, those who receive the curriculum reduce their energy use by changing several simple, daily behaviors and receive positive feedback by aggregating their "carbon reduction" with other team members.

Like energy consumption, food consumption has an enormous impact on climate change, as well as on the sustainability of marine, land, and water resources. Dane Klinger (PhD, 2nd year) and Kimiko Narita (Joint JD-MS, 2nd year) co-authored an article in Foreign Policy, Peak Tuna, in which they discuss the threat that wild bluefin tuna populations face due to the increasing popularity of toro sushi, a popular delicacy in Japan and around the world. They propose that an international trade ban, by listing bluefin as "threatened with extinction" under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), may be an effective way to restore the bluefin population Ð perhaps more effective than trying to educate sushi restaurant go-ers to change their orders.

Dane was also a co-author on a recent Science magazine Policy Forum, Sustainability and Global Seafood which looks at fishing practices, trade, and nourishment on a global scale as part of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis working group on, Envisioning a Sustainable Global Seafood Market and Restored Marine Ecosystems.

Marilyn is also working with Carrie Armel and Banny Banerjee (Mechanical Engineering) on a quasi-ethnographic study to understand the barriers to reducing energy use and viable alternative low-energy-footprint behaviors in California adults. This project, supported by a US Dept of Energy's ARPA-E grant, melds methods from design and behavioral sciences in an interdisciplinary effort to address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from residential energy use. Results from this work will inform future behavioral interventions in tandem with efforts to leverage energy feedback through smart energy management devices and systems to reduce residential energy footprint.

What is the additive effect of individual behavior changes such as those studied by Marilyn's team? Danny Cullenward (PhD, 2nd year) is expanding the US government energy models to predict the energy efficiency implications of changes in individual energy consumption behavior. With co-author Jordan Wilkerson (a PhD student in CEE), Danny presented this work to the US Dept. of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA), which currently assumes static consumer behavior for its official energy forecasting and policy analysis. Danny is also looking at how insights from the behavioral sciences community could be applied to improving federal energy policy analysis, and presented a paper on this work at the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference in November.