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Unlabelled: This paper demonstrates that the goals of ergonomics (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency, health, safety and usability) are closely aligned with the goals of design for environmental sustainability. In this paper, the term 'green ergonomics' is conceptualised to specifically describe ergonomics interventions with a pro-nature emphasis. Green ergonomics is focused on the bi-directional connections between human systems and nature. This involves looking at (1) how ergonomics design and evaluation might be used to conserve, preserve, and restore nature and (2) how ecosystem services might be harnessed to facilitate the improved wellbeing and effectiveness of human systems. The paper proposes the scope of green ergonomics based on these bi-directional relationships in the areas of the design of low resource systems and products, the design of green jobs, and the design for behaviour change. Suggestions for further work in the green ergonomics domain are also made. Practitioner summary: Given the enormous environmental challenges facing modern industrial society, this paper encourages ergonomics science to embrace a pro-nature understanding of work design and research. This paper sets out the role for green ergonomics based on an appreciation of the human-nature connections that have been integrated with our understanding of ergonomics science and practice.
Green ergonomics: definition and scope
The goals of ergonomics (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency, health, safety, and usability) are closely
aligned with the goals of design for environmental sustainability. In this paper the term “green
ergonomics” is conceptualised to describe ergonomics interventions with a pro-nature emphasis.
Green ergonomics is focused on the bi-directional connections between human systems and
nature. This involves looking at (1) how ergonomics design and evaluation might be used to
conserve, preserve, and restore nature and (2) how ecosystem services might be harnessed to
facilitate the improved wellbeing and effectiveness of human systems. The paper proposes the
scope of green ergonomics based on these bi-directional relationships in the areas of the design
of low resource systems and products, the design of green jobs, and the design for behaviour
change. Further suggestions for work on green ergonomics are made.
Keywords: green ergonomics, environment; pro-nature; sustainability
Relevance: Given the enormous environmental challenges facing modern industrial society
this paper encourages ergonomics science to embrace a pro-nature understanding of work
design and research. This paper sets out the role for green ergonomics based on an
appreciation of the human-nature connections that have been integrated with our
understanding of ergonomics science and practice.
1 Introduction
One of the greatest challenges now facing humankind involves understanding how to deal
with the degradation of our natural environment while still providing opportunities for every
human to aspire to a meaningful quality of life. According to scientists working on these issues
(Gupta, 1998; Oreskes, 2004; Vitsousek, 1994) human activity, especially over the last 150
years, has contributed significantly to the degradation of our planet’s natural resources and to
the inability of the planet’s systems to properly recover. This has resulted in severe disruptions
to the planet’s natural nutrient recycling patterns, to climatic systems, and to reductions in
biodiversity (Bates et al., 2008; Vitsousek, 1994). Of course, there are also many smaller
systems that show disturbances and that have also had negative, localised environmental
impacts. Despite our growing knowledge of these problems for at least three decades, the
situation appears to be getting worse (Cox et al., 2000; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, 2007). The degradation of the natural environment has also been linked to serious
negative human health and well-being effects (Pimentel et al., 2007; Schmitz, 2007) including
increases in respiratory problems, cancers, immune system defects, and birth defects, as well as
global warming effects that have accelerated poverty and led to malnutrition and the spread of
diseases that were previously unknown in certain geographical regions. There is also evidence
to suggest that the degradation of our natural environment has led to severe negative
implications for psychological wellbeing (Kellert, 2005) and even problems in human
development (Louv, 2005).
These problems have not gone un-noticed by ergonomics. Nearly two decades ago Moray
(1993) proposed that ergonomics should look to address issues of water and food shortages,
inefficient energy usage, pollution and waste, and rapid urbanisation. Helander (1997) too,
encouraged ergonomists to address “global environmental and social problems, such as the
pollution of the big cities” (p. 960) amongst other problems. Despite Helander’s (1997) and
Moray’s (1995) eloquent pleas for ergonomics to directly address these ecological disasters,
very little ergonomics research has considered these issues even though, as will be argued,
ergonomics is well placed to make a positive contribution. Moray (1995) argued that the role
of “ergonomics is to design a lifestyle support system that elicits the behaviour required to
reduce the severity of the global problems” (p. 1699). However, Sauer et al. (2004) noted that
despite Moray’s (1995) appeal there was still a growing need for pro-environmental
considerations in ergonomics interventions. In recent years there has been a rejuvenated
interest in addressing some of these issues within the ergonomics community, led by Steimle
and Zink (2006) who proposed the term “sustainable development and human factors”. To
date this has led to the establishment of an International Ergonomics Association Technical
Committee on “Human Factors and Sustainable Development” (Zink, 2008a), three sessions
facilitated by this Technical Committee at the 2009 IEA Triennial Congress in Beijing, four
sessions facilitated by this Technical Committee at the 2012 IEA Triennial Congress in Recife,
the establishment of a special interest group on “green ergonomics” within the United
Kingdom-based Institute for Ergonomics and Human Factors (IEHF) (Hanson, 2010), a book
on sustainable development with a macroergonomics focus (Zink, 2008b), one keynote
address at an IEHF 2010 Conference, a keynote address at the 2012 IEA Triennial Congress,
and two lead articles in recent editions of the HFES Bulletin (Hedge, 2008; Sanquist, 2008).
This paper focuses on a smaller subset of interventions within the broader domain of
“sustainability and human factors” by defining the term green ergonomics, or ergonomics that
promotes an understanding of the role of human-nature connections in meeting the goals of
ergonomics. Pimentel et al. (2007), noted that humans are inextricably connected to our
natural environment and any strains on this system will have significant negative implications
for human health, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness; aspects which ergonomics has a
particular interest in optimising. The International Ergonomics Association (2009) defines
ergonomics as “the scientific discipline concerned with understanding the interactions among
humans and other elements of a system” and to “design in order to optimize human well-being
and overall system performance”. Specifically, human well-being and system performance are
about designing tasks, objects, machines, jobs, environments, processes, and systems that are
usable, effective, efficient, healthy, and safe (Dul and Weerdemeester, 2008). In an era where
many natural resources are dwindling and where our products, behaviours, and actions have
major consequences on the sustainability of our environment and the planet, we need to
examine how ergonomics can play a role in the reduction of negative environmental impacts.
Even the emergence of the discipline of ergonomics, attributed to Jastrzebowski (2001), was
originally published in a journal whose English translation is “Nature and Industry”.
In Section 1 the principles of “human factors for sustainable development” are introduced by
way of background. This is followed by an introduction to the principles and theoretical
justification for the term green ergonomics that is used to describe the endeavours that
ergonomists should be encouraged to engage in to ensure a usable, effective, efficient, healthy,
and safe inter-generational future which incorporates a pro-nature view. In section 2 the scope
of green ergonomics is proposed based on (a) conserving, preserving, and restoring nature and
(b) on humans benefitting from nature. This is explored by way of critically examining
examples of related research and by way of suggesting opportunities for future work. A fuller
treatment of the opportunities for green ergonomics is presented in Hanson (this issue).
1.1 Sustainable development and human factors
The term “sustainable development and human factors” is based on the World Commission
on Environment and Development’s definition of sustainable development as “development
that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs” (Brundlandt, 1987). Sustainable development has come to be
understood as a complex balancing of economic capital, societal capital, and natural capital
called the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach (Dyllick and Hockerts, 2002; Elkington, 1998).
The link between these three forms of capital is based on the assumption that poverty often
exacerbates the negative effect on the environment through the over-exploitation of scarce
resources (e.g. the overgrazing of limited land, deforestation for agricultural land and fuel, the
degradation of limited arable land through poor agricultural methods; the use of outdated
industrial machinery, and the polluting of limited water supplies). The solution from a TBL
perspective is economic or social upliftment to reduce these environmental impacts.
Understandably, Steimle and Zink (2006) argued that sustainable development and human
factors needed to focus on human elements within the larger system (i.e. primarily social
capital but also economic capital). They drew on the notion of sustainable work systems from
Docherty et al. (2002) to emphasise the link between sustainable development and human
factors. According to Docherty et al. (2002), work that meets the physical, physiological and
psychological limits of human functioning and that allows sufficient rejuvenation opportunities
(i.e. recreation and rest) is sustainable. There are obvious synergies between Docherty et al.’s
(2002) goals and the goals of ergonomics including the focus on wellness at work and work-
worker alignment. Steimle and Zink (2006) encouraged ergonomists to make contributions
through: understanding employment practices (e.g. relevant work schedules), complementing
the design process of sustainability-oriented products, designing more efficient work systems,
ensuring the safe operation of complex systems that may result in ecological and economic
disasters, and through community ergonomics. Hanson (2010), preferring the term green
ergonomics, focused specifically on how ergonomics can assist in lessening our environmental
impact. She included focusing on the job requirements for the new green economy (e.g. the
challenges of off-shore wind farm jobs), developing systems and products that use less energy,
and assisting in understanding sustainable behaviour change.
Zink et al. (2008) used Dyllick and Hockerts’ (2002) TBL model of sustainable corporations
to demonstrate how human factors can contribute to sustainable development. Figure 1 gives
examples of how traditional ergonomics interventions fit on this triad. Interventions include
designing efficient systems (i.e. eco-efficiency), ensuring the health and safety of the humans in
the system (i.e. socio-efficiency), and the usability of systems by people (i.e. socio-
effectiveness). Scott (2008) takes the areas of application further, urging ergonomics
interventions to consider the upliftment of whole communities and societies.
[insert Figure 1 about here]
While Steimle and Zink (2006) and Zink et al. (2008) call for a balance between the three
dimensions of sustainable development, most ergonomics interventions have arguably focused
on economic (eco-efficiency and socio-efficiency) and social (socio-efficiency and socio-
effectiveness) aspects and have largely neglected the impact on natural systems (Thatcher,
2012). In the traditional ergonomics approach economic and human societal benefits and costs
are well-documented (see Hendrick, 1996), but the costs and benefits for nature are not. In
particular, there has been little focus on interventions that support eco-effectiveness and
sufficiency. McDonough and Braungart (2002) have noted that a focus on eco-efficiency and
socio-efficiency might actually exacerbate eco-effectiveness problems. In cases where systems
and products are (eco- and socio-) efficient they will be used or purchased more readily. If
they are not designed for eco-effectiveness then the problems for natural systems are
multiplied rather than resolved.
It is argued here that “human factors for sustainable development”, given its broader focus
on the entire triadic relationship, might best be envisaged as the broader term with green
ergonomics encompassed under this term to emphasise designs and interventions that facilitate
the connections between humans and nature. While green ergonomics serves to emphasise
natural capital in ensuring sustainable development it should, however, not be viewed as
independent from social and economic capital.
1.2 Defining green ergonomics
Green ergonomics is defined as ergonomics interventions that have a pro-nature focus;
specifically ergonomics that focuses on our affinity with the natural world. Green ergonomics
acknowledges that the planet (as a whole) is a closed system such that a disruption in one part
of the system will inevitably have repercussions for other parts of the system. Therefore, green
ergonomics acknowledges the bi-directional relationships with the natural environment;
humans influence the health of their natural environment and the health of the natural
environment, in turn, impacts on the health and wellbeing of humans – see Figure 2. This
approach should not be interpreted as being entirely nature-focused though. Suggesting a pro-
nature focus for green ergonomics does not mean that the other components of the TBL (i.e.
social and economic capital) are unimportant. While green ergonomics calls for a balance by
stressing the importance of natural systems (i.e. ergonomics interventions that look specifically
at the reciprocal connections between humans and nature), this necessarily also includes
humans and their economic and societal development needs. Green ergonomics focuses on the
development of human systems that integrate fully in a sustainable way with natural
[insert Figure 2 about here]
First, green ergonomics considers how human systems can facilitate the conservation,
preservation, and restoration of natural capital. Nature provides what Daily (1997) calls
ecosystem services; conservatively estimated to be valued, more than a decade ago, at US$33
trillion per year (Costanza et al, 1997). These services basically fulfil the following life
sustaining operations: provisioning services (e.g. food, minerals, pharmaceuticals, energy,
etc.), regulating services (e.g. water purification, waste decomposition, carbon sequestration,
etc.), habitat services (e.g. seed dispersal, crop pollination, resilience through genetic
variation, flood and drought mitigation, etc.), and cultural services (e.g. recreational
opportunities, aesthetic beauty, inspiration, serenity, etc.). Continued degradation of our
natural environment would make it difficult for these ecosystem services to cope. Damage to
these ecosystem services would also have significant negative physical and psychological
implications for humans. From an ergonomics standpoint it is not possible therefore to speak
of sustainable human well-being and effectiveness when the natural environment becomes
degraded and depleted. Natural environments that lack essential resources (e.g. nutritious
food, fresh water, clean air, plants for carbon sequestration, nutrient-rich soil, etc.) or contain
harmful waste products (e.g. volatile organic compounds, excessive collections of heavy
metals, etc.) can scarcely be considered places that facilitate human well-being and
effectiveness. From this perspective green ergonomics involves reducing the impact of human
systems on these ecosystem services through ergonomics design in order to avoid or diminish
natural (and by implication, humanitarian) crises.
Second, green ergonomics considers how the connections of humans with nature might
facilitate human wellbeing and effectiveness. Wilson (1984) has argued that humans have an
inherent affinity for connecting with nature; a concept he referred to as biophilia. This
manifests itself in a sense of wonderment and curiosity about the natural world around us.
According to Louv (2005), connections with nature form important components of childhood
development, including facilitating curiosity, novelty, mobility, and challenge. A component of
green ergonomics therefore examines the types of qualities necessary in our educational
environments and recreational facilities for children to enable more fuller childhood
development. As adults there is growing evidence that we perform better and have higher
measures of psychological wellbeing when the restorative properties of nature are available
(Hartig and Staats, 2006; Ulrich, 1984). However, while there is a long history of research on
the restorative properties of nature in the psychological literature (see Roszak et al., 1995),
work in the ergonomics literature is scarce. In the psychological literature, ecopsychology is
defined as enabling health and wellbeing through connecting with the health of the planet (see
Roszak et al., 1995). Building on these psychological concepts, green ergonomics looks at the
ways to incorporate the restorative and creative properties of nature into the design and
evaluation of workplaces, homes, and places of play. There is also growing evidence that
inspiration can be drawn directly from nature; a field of design known as biomimicry (Benyus,
1997). Green ergonomics has a role to play in understanding how we arrive at and interact
with biomimetic designs and biophilic designs. Finally, it should also be self-evident that a
healthy natural environment leads to better physical health. More time in nature means greater
opportunities for physical activity, psychological restoration, and social interaction with a
broad diversity of people.
Fiksel (2003) encouraged designers to consider taking a broader systems approach than
simply the use of a product. Within green ergonomics this means taking a life-cycle approach
(Guinée, 2002) considering all stages of the life cycle of a product or system since the
potential damage that a product or system can do to the environment is the sum of its
environmental impacts at each stage of the life cycle. This would involve pro-nature
ergonomics considerations at the design, production, utilisation, recycling, and disposal stages
(Wenzel et al., 1997). For example, a high consumption design cycle, waste products during
manufacturing, poor energy efficiency during use, low recyclability of components, and toxic
emissions during usage and disposal would represent poor green ergonomics design. From an
ergonomics point of view, the utilisation phase, specifically eco-efficiency, has traditionally
been the most important part of the life cycle given that most ergonomics products and
systems are designed for human use and this is where the most environmental impact is
expected to act (Wenzel et al., 1997). Green ergonomics emphasises that other stages in the
life cycle are also important.
In the following section the potential scope of green ergonomics is outlined, interspersed
with examples of existing empirical investigations that fall within the bounds of green
ergonomics. For a fuller treatment of the research and work opportunities for green
ergonomics interested are readers are referred to Hanson (this issue).
2 Scope of green ergonomics
A great deal of design and evaluation research with a pro-nature emphasis appears in print
outside of the “traditional” ergonomics literature. There is a plethora of work in the
psychology, design, sociology, and engineering literature across at least three decades which is
not covered in detail in the examples from which further inspiration might be drawn (for
examples see Becker and Seligman, 1978; Brandon and Lewis, 1999; Benyus, 1997; Collier et
al., 2008; Maloney and Ward, 1973; McCalley and Midden, 2002; Tennessen and Cimprich,
1995; Ulrich, 1984). In this section suggestions are made for possible green ergonomics
interventions and research.
2.1 Design of low resource systems and products
2.1.1 Conserving, preserving, and restoring nature
There are considerable opportunities for ergonomics interventions to improve the eco-
efficiency of products and for an expansion into eco-effective products. The work of Clauman
et al. (2011) and Hilliard and Jamieson (2008), is early evidence of the role that green
ergonomics could play in designing and evaluating products with pro-nature benefits. Hilliard
and Jamieson (2008) looked at the design of cognitive support tools for a solar-powered
vehicle. Unlike conventional fossil-fuel and bio-fuel vehicles, solar powered vehicles do not
carry their energy source on board but must draw their “fuel” from their environment. Solar-
powered vehicles therefore need different driving skills and information requirements
compared to on-board, fuel-based vehicles. This means providing information about the
vehicle’s functioning (e.g. solar array efficiencies, tyre pressure, and speed), traffic conditions
(e.g. traffic regulations, speed limits, and traffic reports), and the environment conditions (e.g.
cloud cover, weather conditions, and topographical details). Ergonomics is required in
designing an interface that lessens the additional cognitive burden on the driver. This is an
example of ensuring eco-efficiency with an eco-effective vehicle. In a more direct example of
an eco-effective design Claumann et al. (2009) designed a walking frame from sustainable
materials (in this case bamboo). Claumann et al. (2009) reported that the bamboo walking
frame provided equivalent support and had the added benefit of being more aesthetically
pleasing, lighter in weight, and cheaper than conventional metal walking frames. The list of
possible products could extend into every sphere of human interaction with the designed
environment but should also include the design of smart-meter interfaces to enable grid-
monitoring (Sanquist, 2008) and the design of programmable thermostats (Moezzi et al.,
2009). Moezzi et al. (2009) acknowledged though, that the actual use of many “energy
saving” devices does not always produce the intended energy reduction results and
recommended further study and re-design.
Another obvious role for green ergonomics is an involvement in the design of larger systems.
In one example, Mandavilli et al. (2008) investigated how the design of traffic circles could
reduce motor vehicle emissions and the fuel consumption of vehicles. In Mandavilli et al.’s
(2008) study stop-controlled intersections were replaced with single-lane traffic circles with
the resulting smoother traffic flow resulting in reduced carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide,
nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbon emissions. In addition, vehicles spent less time at the
intersection and therefore less fuel getting to their destination. Replacing an existing control
mechanism with a different control mechanism is something that is familiar to many areas of
ergonomics. In this particular case, the introduction of a traffic circle changed the traffic
system functioning and had positive eco-efficiency and psychological well-being (i.e. drivers
arrived at their destinations sooner and with less traffic congestion) effects. Hanson (this issue)
lists a number of other important areas where green ergonomics could play a role for pro-
nature outcomes including designing systems to support the use of low energy transport
systems (e.g. designing cycling paths, bicycle storage facilities, and shower facilities at work
for cycling to work, or designing electricity recharge networks for electric cars, or designing
retail distribution systems to minimise travel), designing buildings and urban environments, the
design of retail supply chains, and examining the role of communication systems (that negate
the need to travel).
Because the majority of these studies only have small-scale eco-efficiency benefits it is
difficult to see how they would have a significant positive impact on the wider natural
environment unless these products are accepted on a worldwide scale. One possibility is that
the lessons learned from one product might be more widely applied to other products. Hilliard
and Jamieson (2008) for example, noted that aspects of the contextual advice systems for the
solar-powered vehicles might also be beneficial in enabling eco-efficiencies in conventional
vehicles. While eco-efficiency is obviously important it only involves proportional
improvements to the functioning of a product. Green ergonomics therefore also needs to look
at eco-effective design where the entire product has an expressed benefit (or neutral effect) on
natural systems. Examples of direct eco-effective design include cradle-to-cradle design
(McDonough and Braungart, 2002) and some biomimetic designs (Benyus, 1997).
2.1.2 Humans benefitting from nature
One of the most direct ways that humans may benefit from nature within the design field is
through biomimicry. Benyus (1997) defines biomimicry as “innovation inspired by nature” (p.
2). In short, biomimicry seeks to take advantage of 3.8 billion years of “design”, through
natural selection, which we find in nature in order to learn to develop optimal systems that
synergise with nature. Examples of biomimicry include the design of the “bullet” train’s front-
end based on a kingfisher’s beak to produce a quieter, faster, more energy efficient train and
the Eastgate building in Zimbabwe which is designed based on a termite mound to maintain
constant internal temperatures while reducing building energy use. Biomimetic design is not
integrated with ergonomics at this point although there are a large number of opportunities. In
one example of biomimetic design applied to ergonomics, Wise and Taylor (2002) examined
how fractal structures commonly found in natural settings (e.g. winding rivers, the shapes of
clouds, uneven horizons, and the branching structure of trees) might be applied to the design
of knowledge work environments. However, follow up empirical work is yet to be published
in the ergonomics literature.
One of the obvious places for green ergonomics to make an impact on improving individual
wellbeing is in the built environment. The psychological literature is replete with examples of
the benefits and preferences for views of nature (Stone, 2003; Tennessen and Cimprich, 1995)
as is the illumination engineering literature (Heschong et al., 2002) and ventilation engineering
literature (Fisk and Rosenfeld, 1997). In ergonomics there has been a great deal of work on
environmental ergonomics including trying to understand sick building syndrome. Hedge
(2000) provided a review of studies investigating interventions related to lighting (especially
daylight) and indoor air quality (including the use of indoor plants to remove pollutants),
concluding that there were well-established human well-being and effectiveness benefits for
these interventions. In particular, a set of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) green building credits applies specifically to indoor environmental quality including
components such as daylight, reduced glare, external views, removal of toxic compounds from
the air, and fresh air (Hedge, 2008). Unfortunately while these credits synergise well with the
benefits noted by Hedge (2000) there have been few mainstream empirical contributions
appearing in the ergonomics literature evaluating how these pro-nature aspects of green
buildings impact on wellbeing and productivity (for an example see Thatcher and Milner,
2012). There are great opportunities in evaluating the wellbeing and productivity benefits of
the pro-nature aspects of indoor environmental quality. The LEED rating system has also
recently added appropriate workplace layout and tools that meet ergonomics standards as an
innovation credit (Hedge, 2008). This credit is important to demonstrate that ergonomics is a
relevant component of green buildings but the pro-nature implications are not obvious and
require further exploration.
From a slightly different perspective on the built environment, some ergonomics research has
investigated the parameters of an office setting that lead to creativity (Ceylan et al., 2008; Dul
and Ceylan, 2011). This research found that the relevant characteristics that stimulated
creativity included natural daylight, external windows (allowing diffused light, fresh air
circulation, and aesthetic views), views to nature, and the presence of plants. These office
environment “designs” are pro-nature in that they expose the office worker to more “natural”
environmental conditions, although it must be noted that the authors focused on the creativity
benefits and not specifically the gains from connecting with nature. Further research is
required to understand what other aspects of human functioning and wellbeing at work might
be positively influenced by connections with the natural environment.
2.2 Design of green jobs
2.2.1 Conserving, preserving, and restoring nature.
Hanson (this issue) also noted the importance in understanding the role of ergonomics in
dealing with the challenges of an expansion into “green jobs”, including jobs in the dangerous
conditions of offshore wind farms and tidal energy farms, the heat conditions associated with
solar power installation, the change in working conditions related to organic farming, and job
design related to recycling plants (see also Engkvist et al., 2011). This involves examining
how the jobs themselves are designed, determining what health risks can be ameliorated, or
devising selection processes for people with the right characteristics for performing these jobs
effectively and safely. For the majority of these jobs the role of ergonomics would be to
facilitate the smooth operation of jobs that enhance eco-efficiencies. There are also instances
where the design of the job/task itself would lead directly to pro-nature outcomes. In an
example of task analysis and job design, Torres et al. (2009) considered the task design of
mussel farmers to enable sustainable farming practices. They suggested that monitoring of the
water quality, monitoring of the mussel lifecycle, and investigations to assess possibilities for
waste usage were tasks that would assist environmental conservation for sustainable mussel
farming. These are tasks that facilitate stewardship over the natural environment, conservation
of natural resources; and also ensure longevity in mussel farming operations.
2.2.2 Humans benefitting from nature
Most of the research on the relationships between well-being and the psychologically
restorative function of nature is found in literature outside of the ergonomics domain (see
Hartig and Staats, 2006; Kellert, 2005; Ulrich, 1984). While research has looked at the
ergonomics of leisure and recreation activities (see Atkinson and Reilly, 1995) this work
seldom considers the regenerative and restorative properties of time spent with nature. There
are therefore also opportunities for green ergonomics to look at the impact of work-rest cycles
that incorporate nature as well as the beneficial effects of time spent in nature and its impact
on productivity and wellbeing in traditional office environments.
2.3 Ergonomics design for behaviour change
2.3.1 Conserving, preserving, and restoring nature.
Perhaps the most important role for green ergonomics would be in facilitating larger,
systemic behaviour change. However, while related disciplines such as psychology (e.g.
Maloney and Ward, 1973), sociology, and economics have a long history of empirical work in
attempting to understand energy conservation behaviour, related work in ergonomics is
limited. Sanquist (2008) and Sanquist et al. (2010) raised a number of interesting possibilities
for the role of ergonomics in behaviour change including understanding the use and design of
energy feedback systems (e.g. such as energy consumption meters, fuel consumption displays,
etc.) and control systems (e.g. thermostat controls), and macroergonomic approaches that
assist whole organisational systems to understand and conserve their energy use. Sanquist et
al. (2010) focused on energy as the natural resource of interest, but it is easy to see how the
role of ergonomics might be applied to behaviour change for conserving, preserving, and
restoring other natural resources such as water, air quality, or biodiversity. However, not all
ergonomics studies of feedback systems have produced positive results. For example,
Flemming and Jamieson (2009) found that an ecological interface (including functional
information) did not reduce energy or water wastage compared to conventional feedback
A significant component of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’
(DEFRA) pro-environmental strategy is an attempt at understanding and influencing pro-
environmental behaviours and behaviour change (Collier et al., 2008); a task where green
ergonomics would be well-placed to contribute (Hanson, this issue; Karwowski, 2008; Moore
et al., 2011; Sanquist et al., 2010). This could be done through deepening our understanding
of the dynamics of sustained behaviour change, the presentation of energy usage patterns to
users (Hanson, 2010), keeping eco-efficiency in conscious awareness (Amel et al., 2009),
developing lean manufacturing processes that take nature into account (see Paez et al., 2004),
or contributing to the design of smart cities and smart grids (Ahram et al., 2010). Further,
green ergonomics could also apply the lessons learned from the design of warning signs
(Laughery and Wogalter, 1994) to the design of eco-labelling of products; informing users
about appropriate practices used in the design and manufacturing of a product to ensure more
responsible consumer behaviour.
Another way of affecting behaviour change is through training interventions. The work of af
Wahlberg (2006; 2007) serves as an interesting appetizer for a wide range of green
ergonomics training interventions. The researcher looked at the short-term (af Wahlberg,
2006) and long-term (af Wahlberg, 2007) effects of a training programme designed to get city
bus drivers to adopt more fuel-efficient driving styles. Unfortunately neither the short-term nor
long-term training effects were particularly encouraging, although fuel efficiencies were noted
for the trained drivers when additional feedback equipment was installed. The list of possible
training applications could include the appropriate use of products and systems in an eco-
efficient manner, learning how smart grids and other energy saving systems operate, training
on how to use products more eco-efficiently or eco-effectively, training on how to use larger
systems (e.g. green buildings) appropriately, and training to facilitate appropriate behaviour
change for the conservation, preservation, and restoration of our natural capital.
2.3.2 Humans benefitting from nature
Behaviour change that allows humans to appreciate the benefits of nature is the last aspect
to consider within the scope of green ergonomics. Again, this is a goal that has been more
coherently explored in psychology (e.g. Louv, 2005), education (Sterling, 2001), and the
biological sciences (e.g. Wilson, 1984) than in ergonomics. Green ergonomics could draw
inspiration from the ecopsychology (Roszak et al., 1995) movement and how our
understanding of our engineered environments might be adapted to facilitate more human-
nature connections of a positive kind, how we might learn about our natural environment in a
safe context, and how we design spaces for appreciation of nature.
3 Conclusions
A number of existing ergonomics interventions cited in the previous section only have a
moderate pro-nature emphasis. While the purpose is not to criticise these initiatives, after all
some eco-efficiency is better than none, small-scale eco-efficiencies are insufficient to fully
integrate ergonomics with a TBL understanding encapsulated by green ergonomics. What is
needed is green ergonomics interventions that address pro-nature needs more directly, that are
scalable to the broader environment, and that interface with economic and social capital needs
of communities. This paper intended to demonstrate the manifest and inherent synergies
between natural capital and ergonomics science. In considering the vast environmental
challenges (i.e. green-house gas emissions, fossil fuel energy shortages, and clean water
problems) facing our planet resulting from anthropogenic causes, Karwowski (2008; p. 122)
questions whether “effectiveness, safety, and ease of performance [is] all that the HF/E
discipline is about” and urges us to “consider changing the focus of [the] HF/E profession” to
take natural systems into account. Orr (2002) offers green ergonomics a platform for defining
itself as the “meshing of human purposes with the larger patterns and flows of the natural
world and the study of those patterns and flows to inform human actions” (p. 20), an aim very
close to what is claimed to be done in ergonomics. The overlaps between ecological and
ergonomics science are obvious and demonstrated in Schmitz’ (2007) statement on the
challenge of ecological science to understand “the intricate dependencies between humans and
nature in society’s endeavour to sustain long-term health and well-being” (p. 3). This paper
provides both an incentive to recognise the synergies between nature and ergonomics, as well
as a scope for potential future research and design.
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Figure 1. Corporate sustainability and ergonomics interventions (adapted from Zink et al.,
2008; p. 13).
Figure 2. Bi-directional relationships for green ergonomics.
Figure 1. Corporate sustainability and ergonomics interventions (adapted from Zink et al.,
2008; p. 13)
Sufficiency Ecological Equity
Occupational Health &
Customer/stakeholder orientation
Socio-technical work systems
Energy efficiency
Efficient resource
Ecological change management
e.g. participatory approaches
Decision Support Systems
Figure 2. Bi-directional relationships for green ergonomics.
Humans benefitting
from nature
Humans benefitting
from nature
Humans benefitting
from nature
Humans benefitting
from nature
preserving, and
restoring nature
Restorative design
Eco-efficient design
Recycling and sufficiency initiatives
Lifecycle considerations
Ecosystem services
Biomimicry and inspiration from nature
Physical and psychological restoration and
... Thatcher et al. (2013) have defined green ergonomics as "ergonomics approaches with the emphasis on nature, especially ergonomics that are oriented toward the natural environment in terms of human affinity." Green ergonomics is an approach to human-environment interaction that considers the bi-directional interactions between natural and human structures to maintain the welfare and effectiveness of social and economic systems (Thatcher, 2013). Developing low-intensity infrastructure structures with minimal negative effects on the environment while providing for the population's needs is a goal of green ergonomics (Thatcher, 2013). ...
... Green ergonomics is an approach to human-environment interaction that considers the bi-directional interactions between natural and human structures to maintain the welfare and effectiveness of social and economic systems (Thatcher, 2013). Developing low-intensity infrastructure structures with minimal negative effects on the environment while providing for the population's needs is a goal of green ergonomics (Thatcher, 2013). Adem et al. (2022a) have used the hesitant fuzzy analytic hierarchy process to calculate the weights of green ergonomics framework principles. ...
The main objectives of this study were to 1) review the literature on the applications of soft computing concepts to the field of human factors and ergonomics (HFE) between 2013 and 2022 and 2) highlight future developments and trends. Multiple soft computing methods and techniques have been investigated for their ability to address various applications in HFE effectively. These techniques include fuzzy logic, artificial neural networks, genetic algorithms, and their combinations. Applications of these methods in HFE have been highlighted in one hundred and four articles selected from 406 papers. The results of this study help address the challenges of complexity, vagueness, and imprecision in human factors and ergonomics research through the application of soft computing methodologies.
... Green ergonomics might be viewed as a subset of HFSD. Its theoretical underpinnings were developed by Thatcher (2013), who emphasized the reciprocal relationships between HFE and nature. Green ergonomics suggests that HFE can examine how humans can preserve, conserve, and restore natural systems as well as where humans can benefit from natural systems. ...
Since the 1970s, a multitude of sustainability-related programs and documents emerged at the level of global multilateralism, nation-states, communities, and organizations. The sustainability discourse thereby shows a multi-sectoral character, including politics, private economy, and civil society. The sustainable development goals cover issues of “traditional” human factors and ergonomics concern as well as those inviting a newer discussion about human factors and ergonomics (HFE) in the context of ecological sustainability. The chapter demonstrates that the application of HFE tools and methods not only is possible, but also is very important in helping to overcome the global challenges. The HFE work on reducing waste and pollution falls into two categories: waste reduction and recycling systems. Global value creation chains are a phenomenon of the modern era of globalization with far-reaching implications for the economies and countries involved. The transition strategy is mainly characterized by further improving efficiency and productivity gains in value creation.
... In the contemporary context of global debates on environmental and socio-economic issues, both design and Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) communities have sought to identify the links between sustainability and human-centered design (HCD) [1]. This is reflected in the production of a significant number of studies dealing with aspects that are paramount for all scales of intervention, both macro and micro, tangible and intangible. ...
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A significant number of publications demonstrate the growing interest in connecting studies on sustainability with HCD-related interventions, though a complete analysis of all endogenous and exogenous dynamics of research lines currently developed has never been made. A study depicting the main cross-sectoral results developed in the recent years would help researchers in design-related areas to improve sustainable design processes and practices, as well as the knowledge needed to identify the unexplored research niches to focus on in the future to produce non-redundant advances toward sustainability's goals. A systematic literature review of a sample of 122 works allowed us to identify and describe the main themes within this integrated research area and to provide future research trajectories for applied research and practice on sustainable HCD connected to the SDGs. Data found in this work show that studies linking sustainability and HCD produced a complex research framework mainly articulated into four principal design areas: (i) health and wealth, (ii) education, (iii) industrial innovation, and (iv) built environment and living communities. Finally, this study provides designers and researchers working in the HFE and sustainable design macro-domains an overview of the current and future trends where research synergies between sustainability and HCD are likely to develop.
... One interesting example in relation to corporations' efforts to enable material resonance between employees and ecosystems is that of 'green ergonomics'. Thatcher describes green ergonomics "as ensuring human and natural system wellbeing through understanding the bi-directional relationship between natural and human systems" (Thatcher, 2013cited in: Thatcher & Milner, 2014381). Psychological wellbeing, physical wellbeing, productivity and perceptions of the physical environment were measured in a one-year longitudinal comparison of two groups of employees. ...
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In modern capitalist societies, companies are exposed to enormous pressure to accelerate. However, it has increasingly become apparent that the social and economic acceleration which is the result of systemic imperatives tends to produce conflict both on the micro-level of personal temporal patterns and rhythms and on the macro-ecological level, where it tends to undermine the proper times for natural regeneration and reproduction. Corporations are increasingly called upon as corporate citizens to fulfil their responsibilities to stakeholders such as employees or ecosystems. Business ethics approaches therefore seek to develop strategies for fulfilling this responsibility in view of these conflicts created by social acceleration. In this contribution, we first present a diagnosis of acceleration imperatives for companies based on a sociological analysis of social acceleration. Then we examine the normative aspects of conflicts created by acceleration for employees and the ecosphere using the sociological conception of resonance. We attempt to articulate conceptually the normative requirements for a business ethics which are capable of dealing with the problems of social acceleration in corporations with a particular focus on a resonant stakeholder approach.
... Ergonomics is the study of workstation and process design which affects employee health and safety [29,30]. Ergonomic workplaces and job activities boost reliability and provide quality output while reducing absenteeism and work injuries [31]. ...
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The implementation of lean manufacturing to increase productivity often neglects the impact on the environment and the well-being of employees. This can result in negative consequences such as environmental harm and poor employee satisfaction. To address this issue, an integrated ergo-green-lean conceptual model was developed in the literature. However, no case study has been conducted to support this model. Therefore, this research aims to investigate the practical outcomes of implementing the integrated framework in an automobile parts industry. Key performance indicators (KPIs) were identified, including ergonomic risk score, job satisfaction, carbon footprint emission both from direct energy consumption and material wastage, cycle time, lead time, die setup time, and rejection rate. Various assessment techniques were employed, such as the rapid entire body assessment (REBA) with the Standard Nordic Questionnaire (SNQ), job stress survey, carbon footprint analysis (CFA), and value stream mapping (VSM) to evaluate the KPIs at the pre- and post-intervention phases. The results demonstrate significant improvements in job satisfaction (49%), improved REBA score of 10 postures with very high risk numbers by 100%, a 30.3% and 19.2% decrease in carbon emissions from energy consumption and material wastage, respectively, a 45% decrease in rejection rate at the customer end, a 32.5% decrease in in-house rejection rate, a 15.5% decrease in cycle time, a 34.9% decrease in lead time, and a 21% decrease in die setup time. A Python regression model utilizing sklearn, pandas, and numpy was created to assess the relationship between process improvement and the chosen KPIs.
... Si bien la Ergonomía Verde exige un equilibrio al enfatizar la importancia de los sistemas naturales (es decir, las intervenciones ergonómicas que analizan específicamente las conexiones recíprocas entre los humanos y la naturaleza), esto necesariamente también incluye a los humanos y sus necesidades de desarrollo económico y social. Así, esta rama se centra en el desarrollo de sistemas humanos que se integren plenamente de forma sostenible con los entornos naturales (Thatcher, 2013;Hanson, 2013;Norton, Ayoko & Ashkanasy, 2021). ...
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Este artículo de revisión describe la Ergonomía como la ciencia de prevención desde un enfoque integrador. Se realizó una búsqueda bibliográfica en bases de datos como Scopus y Web of Science. Antecedentes históricos, evidencian una consideración formal de las interacciones entre el ser humano y su entorno laboral. Con el avance de la sociedad, la Ergonomía fue transformando su enfoque hasta convertirse en la ciencia que aplica el conocimiento científico de las capacidades y limitaciones humanas al diseño de productos, sistemas y entornos para alcanzar el bienestar laboral. Se presenta una descripción de definiciones, antecedentes función e importancia de esta ciencia. Se describen métodos y modelos de ergonomía ambiental. Se esboza el papel de la Ergonomía ante problemas que enfrenta la sociedad moderna. En síntesis, la Ergonomía es una disciplina al servicio de la gestión que busca el bienestar laboral sin discriminar la profesión, es transversal a todo ejercicio profesional. PALABRAS CLAVE: Bienestar, Capital humano, Importancia, Productividad laboral, Satisfacción laboral.
Decision making process comprises complexity due to holistically managed requirements. Since this process has diverse effects on stakeholders as decision makers, undoubtedly, the decisions become more significant for organizations having critical decisions in today's globalized sustainable world. If these decisions influence not only providing human well‐being but also improving the quality of working life through measuring the performance of business processes, their results should be monitored more systematically. Through this viewpoint, in this paper, the applicability of ergonomics indicators, as the fundamental part of a systematic approach integrating ergonomics and sustainability to monitor and evaluate processes of organizations, is queried within a hybrid multi‐criteria perspective, including five evaluation criteria consolidated for this paper, through a designed survey by asking practitioners as potential users of such an approach. The used methods, that is, BWM and PROMETHEE, enable presenting a base study to decide which ergonomics indicators are necessary for developing a systematic approach, indicating the prioritization of these indicators to be used as candidates for the approach. Results show that 15 ergonomics indicators can be candidates for facilitating sustainable process performance measurement in ergonomics. Importantly, this paper proposes guidance in making decisions for achieving well‐managed processes in organizations through ergonomics indicators evaluated on a hybrid multi‐criteria perspective.
Environmental institutions are realising that the human-nature relationship is a tangible target for a sustainable future. Societal change of that relationship is a challenge involving modifications to both systems and human behaviours. We argue that as Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) focusses on relationships, interfaces and systems it is well placed to contribute. After introducing the state of HFE and nature connectedness science an analysis of areas of HFE and human-nature connectedness themes is used to consider current work and future opportunities. We conclude that despite decades-old calls to action, HFE is embedded in a dated paradigm and has had little positive contribution to the human-nature relationship. However, HFE is well placed to create sustainable communities, designed to create a new relationship with nature. To do this, HFE needs to recognise that it should move on from solely fitting the task to the human, to refitting the human to nature.Practitioner Summary: A more sustainable human-nature relationship can be achieved through applying HFE approaches. HFE expertise in human characteristics, systems, people and technology can be applied at differing scales with various social-economic and technical factors to address key themes in our failing relationship with nature.Abbreviations: HFE: Human Factors and Ergonomics; IPBES: Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; STAMP: System-Theoretic Accident Model and Processes; CWA: Cognitive Work Analysis; NET-HARMS: NETworked Hazard Analysis and Risk Management System; NbS: Nature-based System.
The Sustainable system-of-systems (SSoS) approach, complemented with econometric analysis was used to address China's decarbonization problem, i.e. selecting fossil fuel consumption sources to be reduced in various regions to meet CO2 reduction targets with minimal effect on population and economic growth. In the SSoS, the micro-level system is represented by residents' health expenditure, the meso-level system by industry's CO2 emissions intensity, and the macro-level system by the government's achievement of economic growth. Regional panel data from 2009-2019 were used in an econometric analysis conducted using structural equation modeling. The results show that health expenditure was affected by CO2 emissions from the consumption of raw coal and natural gas. To support economic growth, the government should reduce raw coal consumption. For CO2 emissions reduction, industry in the eastern region should reduce raw coal consumption. The key advantage is SSoS with econometrics offers a way to reach a common goal among stakeholders.
The environmental movement has often been accused of being overly negative--trying to stop "progress." The Nature of Design, on the other hand, is about starting things, specifically an ecological design revolution that changes how we provide food, shelter, energy, materials, and livelihood, and how we deal with waste. Ecological design is an emerging field that aims to recalibrate what humans do in the world according to how the world works as a biophysical system. Design in this sense is a large concept having to do as much with politics and ethics as with buildings and technology. The book begins by describing the scope of design, comparing it to the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Subsequent chapters describe barriers to a design revolution inherent in our misuse of language, the clockspeed of technological society, and shortsighted politics. Orr goes on to describe the critical role educational institutions might play in fostering design intelligence and what he calls "a higher order of heroism." Appropriately, the book ends on themes of charity, wilderness, and the rights of children. Astute yet broadly appealing, The Nature of Design combines theory, practicality, and a call to action.
Conference Paper
Providing feedback about energy consumption to consumers has been shown to reduce their energy use by as much as 20%(Darby, 2006). However, energy consumption feedback has not been studied systematically and its design has rarely been approached from a human factors perspective. We conducted a microworld study using a systematic human factors approach to the design of information: Ecological Interface Design (EID). Participants were asked to stabilize the rate and temperature of water flow from a simulated feed-water system while wasting as little water and energy as possible. The 30 participants controlled the microworld using one of three interfaces: a traditional interface, an ecological interface, or an ecological interface supplemented with information to aid the conservation task performance. Subjects using the supplemented EID interface performed better in both primary and secondary tasks than those presented with the traditional interface. However, those using the supplemented EID interface did not perform significantly better than those presented with the EID display. Two key questions for further study include:(1) How would task performance on a traditional interface supplemented with conservation-goal relevant information compare to performance using the EID or supplemented EID interfaces?(2) Does information about conservation goals aid performance when production goals are in opposition to conservation goals?
Sustainability has become a topic of global relevance: Corporations and other economically acting organizations increasingly need to realize economic, environmental and social objectives in order to survive. Supplementary to "classical" environmental management, realizing corporate sustainability requires comprehensive approaches which allow the integration of social and economic aspects. Such concepts can be found e.g. in international excellence models mainly based on a TQM thinking but also in the field of human factors in organizational design and management. Understood as systems approaches, they include the interests of all relevant stakeholders with a mid- or long-term time perspective and are thus highly linked with the principles of sustainable development. In this book internationally leading scientists discuss the issue of sustainability from their perspective, resulting in an innovative view on different management approaches under the umbrella of corporate sustainability.