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A Diagnostic Approach to Increase Reusable Dinnerware Selection in a Cafeteria


Abstract and Figures

The current project tested a diagnostic approach to selecting interventions to increase patron selection of reusable dinnerware in a cafeteria. An assessment survey, completed by a sample of 43 patrons, suggested that the primary causes of wasteful behavior were (a) environmental arrangement of dinnerware options and (b) competing motivational variables. A functional relation between environmental arrangement and reusable product selection was demonstrated in a reversal design. However, the largest effect occurred as function of a multicomponent intervention involving environmental arrangement, employee involvement, and personal spoken prompts with motivational signs. The results support the use of informant assessments when designing community interventions.
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The current project tested a diagnostic approach to selecting interventions to increase patron
selection of reusable dinnerware in a cafeteria. An assessment survey, completed by a sample of
43 patrons, suggested that the primary causes of wasteful behavior were (a) environmental
arrangement of dinnerware options and (b) competing motivational variables. A functional
relation between environmental arrangement and reusable product selection was demonstrated in
a reversal design. However, the largest effect occurred as function of a multicomponent
intervention involving environmental arrangement, employee involvement, and personal spoken
prompts with motivational signs. The results support the use of informant assessments when
designing community interventions.
DESCRIPTORS: community interventions, environmental interventions, informant assess-
ment, product reuse, waste reduction
Average personal daily waste in the United
States rose from an estimated 2.7 lb in 1960
to 4.4 lb in 2003 (Environmental Protection
Agency [EPA], 2005). U.S. residents now
generate more than 236 million tons of
municipal solid waste each year, which is
comprised mostly of paper products (35%),
yard and food waste (24%), and plastics (11%).
Recycling and composting diverted 72 million
tons of waste from landfills in 2003, but there is
still substantial room for improvement. For
example, only 5.2% of plastics and just less than
half of paper products were recovered in 2003
(EPA). Although recycling diverts material from
landfills, reprocessing such material consumes
energy and produces additional waste. There-
fore, waste reduction initiatives should also
encourage product reuse. Product reuse can
prevent solid waste from entering landfills and
decrease fiscal and environmental costs associ-
ated with manufacturing and recycling.
The first step toward increasing reusable
choices is to make such products affordable and
available to consumers. However, people may
persist in choosing disposable products even
when reusable alternatives are available (e.g.,
paper coffee cups vs. refillable coffee mugs). In
such cases behavioral interventions can facilitate
environmentally friendly choices. A large body
of community-based research shows that a vari-
ety of interventions can increase proenviron-
mental behaviors; however, the process of
selecting an effective intervention for a specific
community context has received less empirical
attention. Behavioral interventions for individ-
uals are more effective when based on a prior
assessment of behavioral causes (e.g., functional
assessment), and recent organizational research
Address correspondence to Ryan Olson, Center for
Research on Occupational & Environmental Toxicology,
Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam
Jackson Park Rd., L606, Portland, Oregon 97239 (e-mail:
doi: 10.1901/jaba.2007.143-05
suggests that this principle holds true for
interventions for groups of individuals (e.g.,
Austin, Olson, & Wellisley, 2001; Pampino,
Heering, Wilder, Barton, & Burson, 2003;
Pampino, Wilder, & Binder, 2005).
Community-based interventions to improve
proenvironmental behaviors have been studied
for more than three decades (see Porter,
Leeming, & Dwyer, 1995, for a literature
review). Such interventions have generally been
classified as antecedent or consequence based,
depending on whether treatments occurred
prior to or after target behaviors. Antecedent
engineering interventions, such as the physical
arrangement of waste containers, can be
effective for increasing recycling or correct
disposal of waste (e.g., Humphrey, Bord,
Hammond, & Mann, 1977; Jacobs, Bailey, &
Crews, 1984; Luyben & Bailey, 1979; Luyben,
Warren, & Tallman, 1979–1980; Reid, Luy-
ben, Rawers, & Bailey, 1976). Other antecedent
interventions include written or spoken
prompts, such as letters, brochures, signs, and
personal pleas or requests (Arbuthnot et al.,
1976–1977; Austin, Hatfield, Grindle, &
Bailey, 1993; Geller, Farris, & Post, 1973;
Jacobs et al., 1984; Spaccarelli, Zolik, & Jason,
1989–1990). Although individuals may habit-
uate to prompting interventions over time, the
effects of prompts can be enhanced when
supplemented with additional interventions.
For example, Austin et al. demonstrated that
signage changes were more effective at in-
creasing recycling when combined with proxi-
mal arrangement of receptacles.
A practical consequence-based intervention
for improving proenvironmental behavior is
providing feedback to individuals about their
behavior (e.g., Katzev & Mishima, 1992;
Schultz, 1998). Feedback is generally less
expensive than financial incentives and can
produce reliable and sometimes large effects.
For example, Katzev and Mishima provided
students with daily group feedback about their
previous day’s paper recycling and produced
a 77% improvement. Although feedback is
often conceptualized as a consequence, infor-
mation about previous behavior can serve
multiple functions, which may explain its
reliability as an intervention (Peterson, 1982).
For example, feedback may simultaneously
reinforce previous behavior while providing
discriminative stimuli for future behavior. The
results of a literature review suggested that
feedback increases the effectiveness of anteced-
ent interventions (Alvero, Bucklin, & Austin,
2001). Feedback that is provided just prior to
opportunities to emit target behaviors is
sometimes called ‘‘feedforward.’’ It is possible
that feedforward may sometimes function as an
antecedent motivating operation (Laraway,
Snycerski, Michael, & Poling, 2003; Michael,
1993; Olson, Laraway, & Austin, 2001). For
example, information that reveals a gap between
current behavior and a group norm may
motivate a person to decrease the gap in the
future (i.e., a conditioned establishing operation
for escape reinforcement).
Due to the extensive array of options,
preintervention assessments may be useful for
identifying the most effective community-based
interventions. Behavioral diagnostic strategies
are classified as experimental, descriptive, or
informant assessments (Austin, Carr, & Agnew,
1999; Lennox & Miltenberger, 1989). Infor-
mant assessments, which rely on interviews or
surveys with relevant individuals, have been
applied to improve performance in organiza-
tional settings for decades, and recent research
has begun explicitly testing various assessment
models (e.g., Austin et al., 2001; Pampino et
al., 2003, 2005). An example of an organiza-
tional assessment method is the performance
diagnostic checklist, which includes questions
for workers about antecedents and information,
equipment and processes, knowledge and skills,
and consequences in their organizational setting
(Austin, 2000).
The goal of the present study was to test an
informant assessment approach to designing
interventions to increase reusable dinnerware
selection by cafeteria patrons. The need for an
intervention was established by observing waste-
ful patron choices and through consulting with
the cafeteria manager, who estimated spending
over $80,000 per year to purchase disposable
cups and food containers that were not re-
cyclable. Informal observations and an infor-
mant assessment survey were used to develop
hypotheses about the causes of wasteful behav-
ior and design appropriate interventions. Inter-
ventions were evaluated across two academic
quarters and included environmental arrange-
ment, feedforward, employee involvement, and
personal spoken prompts with motivational
Participants and Setting
Participants included cafeteria patrons who
completed an informant assessment survey (N
5 43; mean age 5 20 years, SD 5 3.9) and all
other patrons who purchased food during
observations. The setting was the primary
student cafeteria at a private university. The
cafeteria included outside dining areas, an inside
dining room, and a service room. The inside
dining room was approximately 60 m by 40 m
and included table seating for approximately
200 patrons. Patrons walked through the inside
dining room and through a dividing wall to
enter the service room where they selected food
and beverage items. Patrons then left the service
room and stood in line to purchase items from
one of two cashiering areas (two registers in
each area).
Prior to the experiment, researchers observed
patrons dining in with disposable cups and
containers even though reusable options were
available. The existing environmental arrange-
ment seemed to discourage the selection of
reusable cups in particular; disposable cups
occupied more than twice the reusable cup
counter space; reusable cups were placed
between large beverage machines making them
difficult to see; disposable cups were brightly
colored but reusable cups were made of darkly
colored translucent plastic; and disposable cups
were available in an additional larger size (32
oz). With regard to reusable dinnerware choices,
reusable soup bowls and glass salad bowls were
difficult to see or were similar in appearance to
disposable options. Food servers could encour-
age the selection of reusable plates for hot food
items, but did not consistently do so. Some
workers appeared to select disposable containers
by default, forcing patrons to ask for reusable
dinnerware if they wanted it.
Informant assessment participants were re-
cruited from the primary dining area by
researchers. Those who agreed to participate
signed a consent form, listened to instructions,
and completed the survey at their table at their
own pace while experimenters waited. The
informant assessment survey asked patrons
about their (a) knowledge of reusable and
recyclable choices, (b) frequencies of choices,
(c) motives for choices, and (d) opinions about
potential interventions.
Participants averaged 74% correct on ques-
tions regarding knowledge of available reusable
products. The majority of participants reported
selecting disposable cups between 60% to 70%
of the time and disposable plates between 30%
and 40% of the time. Patrons were asked to
select and rank their top three reasons for
choosing disposable cups and plates from
among a list of 14 possible reasons. The reason
that received the most ranks for plates was ‘‘I
am not eating my meal in the cafeteria’’ (f 5
36). Other reasons receiving the most ranks for
plates were ‘‘I want the option of taking my
meal with me if I don’t finish’’ (f 5 26), and
‘‘group plans (dining in or out) unknown’’ (f 5
12). With regard to motives for selecting
disposable cups, the reason that received the
most ranks was ‘‘I want the option of taking it
with me if I don’t finish at the cafeteria’’ (f 5
29), ‘‘I’m not going to drink the beverage at the
cafeteria’’ (f 5 26), and ‘‘easier or less effort to
choose a paper cup’’ (f 5 9). Participants also
rated their level of concern about financial and
environmental impacts of their cafeteria choices
on 5-point scales (5 5 highest concern). Mean
ratings were 2.2 (SD 5 1.2) and 3.4 (SD 5 1.4)
for fiscal and environmental concerns, respec-
tively. Opinions about the potential effective-
ness of different interventions were captured by
asking participants to review a list of seven
possible interventions and select the top three.
The intervention that participants thought was
most likely to be effective was ranked 1. The
intervention that received the most top rankings
was ‘‘better signs that point out reusable
containers and cups’’ (f 5 10). The intervention
that received the most total ranks was ‘‘in-
formation about the waste generated/environ-
mental impact associated with customer choices
at the cafeteria’’ (f 5 22).
The results of assessments suggested two
primary hypotheses about the causes of wasteful
behavior: (a) The existing environmental ar-
rangement discouraged the selection of reusable
products and encouraged the selection of
disposable products, and (b) motivational
variables encouraged disposable product selec-
tion and were deficient for reusable product
Observations and Dependent Variables
Observations were conducted by the first
three authors and seven additional trained
observers, who sat at tables approximately 7 m
from each of the two cashier areas and recorded
patrons’ choices on paper forms. Each observa-
tion session required two observers, one for each
cashier station. Observation sessions lasted
30 min and were conducted every weekday
during peak lunchtime. On Mondays, Wednes-
days, and Fridays peak time was 11:45 a.m. to
12:15 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays
peak time was 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. An
average of 251 (SD 5 52.2) patrons were
observed per session during the experiment.
Patrons’ dinnerware choices were classified as
(a) reusable plates, (b) reusable cups, (c)
disposable plates, and (d) disposable cups.
Reusable plates included all ceramic and clear
glass plates and bowls available in the cafeteria
and plastic baskets for fries and other side items.
Reusable cups included small (16 oz) and
medium (22 oz) beverage containers and
patron-owned refillable coffee containers. Dis-
posable cups included small (16 oz), medium
(22 oz), and large (32 oz) moisture-resistant
paper beverage cups. Disposable plastic plates
included clear plastic clamshell-style food con-
tainers, clear plastic bowls, styrofoam cups for
soup, and cardboard pizza boxes. Dependent
measures were (a) percentage of patrons who
selected reusable cups and (b) percentage of
patrons who selected reusable plates. For both
dependent measures, percentage selection was
calculated as the number of reusable products
observed divided by the number of reusable
plus disposable products observed multiplied by
For 27% of sessions, a reliability observer sat
near one of the two primary observers and
independently scored patron choices at the same
cashier station to assess interobserver agreement.
Percentage agreement was calculated by com-
paring total frequencies for each variable
observed by the two scorers, in which the
smaller observed frequency was divided by the
larger frequency and multiplied by 100%.
Interobserver agreement averaged 91% (SD 5
Experimental Design
Single and multiple-component interventions
were designed to address the two hypothesized
causes of wasteful behavior and were evaluated
with an A-B-A-(BC)-A-B-(BD)-(BDE)-B re-
versal design. Phase changes were implemented
when data for both primary dependent mea-
sures were stable, which was defined as no new
highs and no more than three consecutive
upward trending data points. Exceptions to this
rule occurred when the end of an academic
quarter terminated a phase (e.g., the BDE phase
ended with the Fall quarter, and the final B
phase occurred 3 months later).
Phase A: Baseline. Patron choices were
measured without any experimenter interven-
tion during three baseline phases. However, the
third baseline occurred after a summer break,
and cafeteria workers had partially maintained
the environmental arrangement intervention
(Phase B) (counterspace for cups remained the
same but some signs were removed, and
reusable cups were no longer placed in front
of disposable cups).
Phase B: Environmental arrangement. This
intervention was informed by the environmen-
tal arrangement hypothesis. Counterspace for
reusable cups was doubled by placing an
additional reusable row in front of the dispos-
able cup section. Signs were created and
displayed directly in front of reusable cups at
all stations that read ‘‘DINE-IN REUSABLE’’
in black ink in approximately 48-point Arial
font. Changes were not possible for the most
commonly used reusable plates because they
were available only upon request from food
servers. Reusable bowls were also not movable;
however, signage for all reusable plates was
improved in the same fashion as for cups. This
condition was replicated in isolation three
Phase C: Feedforward. This intervention was
informed by the motivational hypothesis.
Posters were created that were expected to
function as motivating operations by either
increasing the reinforcing effectiveness of reus-
able dinnerware or by abolishing the reinforcing
effectiveness of disposable dinnerware. Two
types of posters (0.75 m by 1 m) were displayed
for patrons to view as they entered the service
room and were presented on alternating days.
Environmental impact posters displayed histo-
grams for average monthly waste associated with
disposable choices in the cafeteria. Fiscal impact
posters displayed histograms for average month-
ly dollar cost of disposable choices in the
cafeteria. During four feedforward sessions, the
first author informally counted the percentage
of patrons who appeared to look at posters as
they entered the service room and found that
approximately 37% of patrons did so.
Phase D: Employee involvement. This in-
tervention was also informed by the motiva-
tional hypothesis and encouraged employees to
prompt and reinforce desirable patron choices.
Employee involvement was implemented by
meeting with employees in person, and in-
cluded requests to engage in behaviors that
would encourage reusable dinnerware selection
by patrons, feedback about rates of resusable
dinnerware selection, and goal setting. The
second author met with employees, shared the
general goal to increase reusable patron choices,
and distributed a list of employee behaviors that
would encourage desirable patron choices (e.g.,
suggesting dine-in plates, stocking reusable
products frequently, thanking patrons who
selected reusable cups and plates). Feedback
cards were then distributed to employees every
other day thereafter, along with a personal
‘‘thank you’’ for their participation. Feedback
cards showed current reusable product selection
rates and included a goal line set at the previous
high for each target behavior.
Phase E: Personal spoken prompts with
motivational signs. This intervention was also
informed by the motivational hypothesis.
During this phase, an experimenter stood near
each entrance to the service room and cheerfully
said ‘‘Please choose reusable cups and plates!’’ or
‘‘Don’t forget to choose reusables!’’ to every
group or person entering the service room. Next
to each prompter was a small table that
displayed all reusable dinnerware options.
Behind each prompter was a large poster (1 m
by 1.25 m) with a picture of a tree and the text
‘‘People who love the environment choose
reusable cups and plates!’’ Smaller versions of
these signs were displayed in several locations
inside the service room including each food and
beverage station. Patrons could also hear and see
prompters and view the motivational signs
while they waited to pay cashiers. Prompters
informally counted the number of prompts they
delivered per session and found an average of
185 per session.
Results are presented in Figure 1. During
baselines (A
, and A
), the mean percentage
of patrons selecting reusable cups was 9%, 13%,
and 16%. During Phases B
, and B
(environmental arrangement), reusable cup
selection means were 26%, 24%, and 31%,
respectively. Although there was some data
overlap between baseline and environmental
arrangement conditions, lower levels of reusable
cup selection were evident in all baselines
relative to environmental arrangement condi-
tions. Thus, a functional relation between the
environmental arrangement condition and re-
usable cup selection was demonstrated by
withdrawing and reintroducing the condition
twice. The effects of environmental arrange-
ment on reusable plate selection were less
consistent and smaller; however, all environ-
mental arrangement phases produced reusable
plate selection rates higher than the most recent
baseline. During Phases A
and B
, reusable
plate selection averaged 48% and 55%, re-
spectively; during Phases A
, and B
reusable plate selection averaged 42%, 45%,
and 52%, respectively. Nevertheless, because of
overlap in these data, particularly between
Phases B
and A
and A
and B
, it does not
appear that environmental arrangement had
a reliable impact on reusable plate selection.
The addition of motivational interventions to
the environmental arrangement condition pro-
duced mixed results. Environmental arrangement
Figure 1. Reusable dinnerware selection by cafeteria patrons by experimental phase. Open data points represent
reusable plates, and filled data points represent reusable cups. The durations of breaks following Sessions 38 and 71 were
approximately 4 and 3 months, respectively. A 5 baseline, B 5 environmental arrangement, C 5 feedforward, D 5
employee involvement, and E 5 spoken prompts with motivational signs. *This withdrawal phase was partially
contaminated by the presence of some Phase B components.
plus feedforward (BC) produced slight improve-
ments in reusable cups beyond environmental
arrangement alone (5% increase). However, the
BC phase produced levels of reusable plate
selection similar to environmental arrangement
alone. Environmental arrangement plus employee
involvement (BD) also failed to produce changes
in the level of target behaviors greater than
environmental arrangement alone. However,
environmental arrangement, employee involve-
ment, and spoken prompts with motivational
signs (BDE) resulted in large increases in reusable
and cup and plate selection (22% and 11%
increases, respectively, relative to the prior BD
phase). During the final follow-up phase (B
conducted 3 months after the termination of the
BDE phase, reusable cup and plate selection was
observed at lower levels than in the previous phase
(BDE). These decreases in behavior suggested that
the motivational interventions (employee involve-
ment, spoken prompts with motivational signs)
had appreciable effects. This final phase left
environmental arrangement intact, and reusable
cup and plate selection was observed at 21 and 4
percentage points above original (A
) baseline
levels, respectively.
Table 1 reports means, standard deviations,
and effect sizes for all phases of the experiment.
Effect sizes reflect mean differences between each
phase and the original baseline (A
) in pooled
standard deviation units (M
). This formula is a common variant of
Cohen’s d statistic in which variability informa-
tion from both comparison conditions is pooled
in the denominator (Cohen, 1988; Rosnow &
Rosenthal, 1996). Effect size statistics are
important because they enable comparisons of
intervention effectiveness across experiments
with diverse dependent measures (e.g., meta-
analyses of research literatures; see Faith, Allison,
& Gorman, 1996, for discussion of effect sizes in
single-case designs). For between-groups experi-
ments, d statistics of 0.2, 0.5, and 0.8 are
considered small, medium, and large, respective-
ly (Cohen). According to these standards, which
may not generalize perfectly to repeated measures
designs, all intervention effects in the current
experiment were large for reusable cups. Large
effects were observed for reusable plates during
Phases B
, BDE, and B
. The largest effects were
observed in Phase BDE for both items.
The current project used an informant
assessment approach to design interventions
for increasing reusable product selection in
a cafeteria. The environmental arrangement
intervention, based on the hypothesis that the
existing arrangement made reusable dinnerware
selection more effortful than disposable dinner-
ware selection, was supported through with-
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for Reusable Dinnerware Selection by Phase
Reusable cups Reusable plates
9.3 3.5 47.9 4.5
26.2 7.4 3.1 55.4 7.4 1.3
13.1 8.4 0.8 49.9 5.7 0.4
BC 31.6 5.3 5.3 50.4 4.8 0.5
16.2 5.2 1.6 41.7 4.0 –1.4
23.6 2.9 4.4 44.8 5.1 –0.8
BD 20.6 5.7 2.6 46.2 2.4 –0.5
BDE 43.0 4.8 8.7 57.4 1.9 2.5
30.7 2.5 6.4 52.3 2.8 1.3
Note. d 5 effect size relative to A
, where d is the difference between phase means in pooled standard deviation units.
Standard deviations were calculated as descriptive statistics and not estimates of population parameters (i.e., degrees of
freedom were not subtracted from the denominators during calculations).
drawal and replication phases. The motivational
hypothesis was supported by the effects of
adding spoken prompting plus motivational
signs to environmental arrangement (Phase
BDE). We believe that the environmental
arrangement intervention was effective for
reusable cups because it decreased response
effort for selecting reusable cups while simulta-
neously increasing the response effort for
disposable cups. Neither reusable cups nor
plates were more available during environmen-
tal arrangement; however, the saliency of
discriminative stimuli probably improved with
signage changes. The smaller and less reliable
effects of environmental arrangement on reus-
able plate selection were probably due to
a weaker dose of the treatment (only signage
changes, no changes to physical arrangement).
Spoken prompting with motivational signs
probably functioned as a motivating operation
by increasing the reinforcing effectiveness of
reusable choices or abolishing the reinforcing
effectiveness of disposable choices. This assertion
is supported by that fact that (a) prompting was
not associated with increased availability of
reusable products and (b) reusable products were
already highly visible due to the environmental
arrangement condition. Prompting also created
a social consequence for patron choices because
patrons had to stand in line near the prompting
experimenter to purchase their food and bev-
erages. Eye contact with the prompter might
have functioned as a social reinforcer or punisher,
depending on the choices a patron had made.
By considering the extrapolated financial
impact of the most effective condition for
1 year, the behavior changes created by the
interventions may be deemed socially impor-
tant. The cafeteria manager spent $84,480
annually for disposable cups and plates that
were not recyclable. Relative to the original
baseline, Phase BDE reduced disposable cup
and plate selection by 34% and 9%, respective-
ly. Disposable cups cost $36,480 annually (34%
savings 5 $12,294) and disposable plates cost
$48,000 annually (9% savings 5 $4,560).
These annual expenditures translate into
912,000 disposable cups and 320,000 dispos-
able plates (approximately 2,192 cubic yards).
The estimated waste reduction would therefore
be 307,344 (34%) fewer disposable cups and
30,400 (9%) fewer disposable plates (approxi-
mately 429 cubic yards). The disposal fee for
each cubic yard of waste at the university was
$16 (429 cubic yards 5 $6,864), bringing the
total estimated annual savings of the interven-
tion to $23,718 ($12,294 + $4,560 + $6,864).
For a more conservative estimate of financial
impact we can consider the effects of imple-
menting the intervention only during the
busiest portion of the lunch hour. Our data
from experimental sessions suggest an annual
savings of $2,088 (item purchase savings 5
$1,491; waste disposal savings 5 $597) plus 37
cubic yards of waste reduction. In either case, it
should be noted that actual savings would be
offset by the costs of collecting, washing, and
maintaining the stock of reusable dinnerware,
and by any personnel costs associated with
Limitations in the current project suggest areas
for future research. The current project did not
compare the differential effectiveness of func-
tion-based versus non-function-based communi-
ty interventions. The current project also did not
replicate or isolate the effects of feedforward,
employee involvement, or spoken prompts with
motivational signs. However, spoken prompts
with motivational signs produced convincing
effects; thus, future research should replicate this
intervention and identify the conditions for the
maintenance of effects. It is also possible that
employee involvement interacted with spoken
prompts and motivational signs to produce the
observed effects. It is reasonable to assume that
employee involvement of some kind is essential
for long-term maintenance and improvement of
interventions over time.
Previous research has demonstrated that
a variety of community-based interventions
can improve proenvironmental behaviors.
However, little empirical attention has been
dedicated to diagnosing the causes of undesir-
able behavior prior to selecting specific com-
munity interventions. In the current project,
informal and informant assessments resulted in
a priori hypotheses about causes of wasteful
behavior in a cafeteria. General hypotheses were
supported by the results of assessment-based
interventions, with some conditions producing
large effects. Encouraging proenvironmental
behaviors is a socially important concern, and
behavioral diagnostic techniques are promising
for improving the effectiveness of proenviron-
mental interventions.
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Action Editor, Gregory Hanley
... The first decade of the new millennium saw only three articles published in behavioral journals, although these hinted at the diversity of the work to follow. Manuel, Sunseri, Olson, and Scolari (2007) examined inexpensive and easily maintained methods by which cafeteria patrons could be encouraged to choose reusable utensils. A 2013 behavioral economic analysis of fuel by Reed and colleagues represented the first analysis of its kind by a behavior analyst: authors used field-standard approaches to model North American operant demand for fossil fuels (i.e., oil), in turn demonstrating a rate of consumption that parallels patterns seen in drug addiction (e.g., inelastic demand at high prices). ...
... Of the literature reviewed, we recognized three studies as having some emphasis on the promotion of sustainable decision making in everyday contexts. Flagged works focused primarily on generating more interest in reusable products-cafeteria dinnerware (Manuel et al., 2007) and shopping bags (Kaplan, Gelino, & Reed, 2018) -to prevent excessive waste. Alternatively, Schroeder, Hovell, Kolody, and Elder (2004) examined the use of newsletter prompts to increase environmentally driven political action by business leaders for whom the local natural environment was essential for business operation. ...
In the years ahead, humans will face unprecedented challenges in the realm of sustainable living. Viable solutions will be necessarily technological—advancements in engineering and electronics will be fundamental to a reduced carbon footprint—and behavioral, as neither solution is alone adequate to yield change on a scale necessary to curb the runaway effects of human negligence. As it pertains to these latter goals, behavioral science has produced a respectable body of research assessing the capability of behavior analytic principles for generating eco-friendly practice. The primary goal of this chapter is to underscore this utility and the importance of behavioral science as a contributor to the sustainability movement. We first aim to briefly outline the problems ahead from the perspective of environmental science. In doing so, we hope to make obvious the gap which might be filled by the growing momentum of behavior analysts to better understand global sustainability. Next, we provide some historical context for the evolution of this behavior analytic investment in sustainable practice and summarize the work produced by the field since the inception of its flagship journal. Having established a baseline from which to infer, we conclude by exploring areas in which behavioral scientists might best focus their efforts to produce a most impactful contribution to the sustainability agenda.
... In recent years, researchers have tested how to motivate sustainable behaviors; one successful strategy for increasing sustainability behaviors is simply making them easier (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008;Benartzi et al., 2017;Varotto and Spagnolli, 2017). For example, one study showed that simply making reusable dinnerware more visible than single-use alternatives in university cafeterias made people more likely to choose the waste-free option (Manuel et al., 2007). ...
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Single-use plastic consumption is at an all-time high and threatens environmental and human health. College campuses in particular serve as a hub for single-use plastics due to their convenience for students on the go. The present research tests whether social comparison information can influence self-perceptions of single-use plastic consumption and motivate behavior change within the college campus environment. In a controlled experiment, we measured college students' existing plastic water bottle usage and gave them false feedback about their behaviors and relative standing to their classmates: participants in comparison conditions learned they were either above or below average in their plastic water bottle sustainability behaviors. Results indicated that (relative to a no-comparison control), being above average at water bottle sustainability led students to be more satisfied with their sustainability efforts. However, either kind of comparison information (i.e., being above or below average) led to greater behavioral intentions to reduce single-use plastic water bottle consumption in the future. This study highlights how comparison information can be used to motivate sustainable behavior change with regards to single-use plastics.
... Others used information as a more formalized behavior change mechanism. Manuel, Sunseri, Olson, and Scolari (2007) used informational posters to alter the value of dinnerware such that individuals were less likely to choose disposable cups and plates in favor of reusables. Camargo and Haydu (2016) invited participants to complete a virtual task wherein collected "resources" were exchangeable for real-world money but were drawn from a pool shared by all other participants. ...
The world is now believed to be operating in a no-analogue state, exceeding the norms of any point in documented history. Substantial disturbance of our natural environmental systems threatens life on Earth. Innovation and change are critical. Social science has historically played a vital role in amassing a body of knowledge implicating potential avenues for change. As a field, behavior analysis must keep pace with this ongoing sustainability agenda. The goal of the present review is to provide a summary of empirical works published by behavior analytic outlets to date focused on target variables of interest regarding environmental sustainability. We examined 50 experiments in their historical context and with respect to various methodological qualities. Results reveal a renewed interest in this area by behavior analysis within the most recent 5 years. We then address gaps in the literature and the means by which new efforts might be maximally contributive toward the advancement of global sustainability.
... Disposable coffee cups are commonly coated with polyethylene, thereby waterproofing the material and welding the seams together. Recent global concern regarding the impact of plastic waste to the environment has resulted in a concerted effort to promote reusable thermoplastic drink containers [14][15][16], with numerous vendors offering discounts and incentives for the use of these cups. Previous literature states that the retention of heat within a liquid is directly related to the volume of liquid, temperature at the time of spill and the presence of a lid and corrugated insulating sleeve [7,[11][12][13][17][18][19][20]. ...
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Recent global concern regarding the impact of plastic waste on the environment has resulted in efforts to utilise reusable drink containers. Research is lacking regarding temperature dissociation of drinks in reusable thermoplastic cups. This study aimed to compare the cooling time of two common hot drinks sold at a UK retailer, in the three vessels they are sold; ceramic, disposable paper (with and without lid) and reusable thermoplastic cups (with and without lid). All temperatures were collated from 250 ml volumes of black Americano coffee or café latte in the three different containers. The cooling time was measured every sixty seconds using a standardised digital thermocouple thermometer until a threshold liquid temperature of 43 °C was reached. All experiments were performed in triplicate and temperatures converted to a dimensionless logarithmic scale prior to statistical analysis. Cooling time was significantly slower for lidded cups irrespective of material. Unlidded thermoplastic cups significantly slowed cooling times for both black Americano coffee and café latte compared to ceramic and unlidded disposable paper cups. The growing trend in reusable cups does not in itself pose an increased risk of scald injury. However, we consider that the potentially increased ambulatory behaviour associated with using a lidded rather than unlidded cup may increase scald risk. We propose that further consumer guidance should be disseminated regarding the use of any lidded takeaway container to prevent scalds in both adults and children.
... Lastly, studies conducted in the future can also focus on other types of pro-environmental behavior that visitors might exhibit, such as purchasing green goods (green consumerism), recycling, and staying in green hotels and restaurants [65]. This enables other variables affecting pro-environmental behavior and causal relationships to be identified so that a more comprehensive framework can be developed. ...
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This study has adopted and refined Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior, theory of reasoned action, and the value–belief–norm theory by Stern et al. to investigate the effects of normative beliefs, attitudes, and social norms on pro-environmental behavioral intentions. A total of 391 valid responses were collected from visitors to a theme park in Taiwan. A structure equation analysis indicated that the overall fit of the proposed model was supported. It was also found that both attitudes and social norms had positive and significant influence on waste reduction. While the results did not reveal any direct relation between normative beliefs and behavioral intentions, normative beliefs had positive direct influence on social norms and attitudes, which in turn had an impact on behavioral intentions. The findings provided further insights about pro-environmental behavioral intentions from an Asia perspective and highlighted important implications for environmental policies and education to reduce waste.
... Olson, Laraway, and Austin (2001) then followed this contribution with a more thorough examination of Michael's (1993Michael's ( , 2000 taxonomy, which included an in-depth consideration of both unconditioned (e.g., sleep deprivation) and conditioned MOs (e.g., nicotine) in the workplace. Since the emergence of these cornerstone publications, MO analyses have been incorporated into several areas of organizational behavior management (OBM) studies, including: consumer choice (e.g., Fagerstrøm, 2010;Fagerstrøm, Foxall, & Arntzen, 2010;Sigurdsson, Engilbertsson, & Foxall, 2010), eco-friendly practices (Manuel, Sunseri, Olson, & Scolari, 2007), workplace performance (Jessup & Stahelski, 1999), and safety (e.g., Olson & Winchester, 2008). ...
The concept of motivation has attracted the attention of scholars in the field of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) over the last two decades. In this paper, we revisit the behavior analytic conceptualization of motivation and highlight recent developments that may contribute to further research and application in OBM. This paper includes a proposed consideration of verbal stimuli (e.g., rules, goals, and values) as potential intervening variables to motivate performance in organizational settings.
Background With increasing pressure on the Earth’s finite resources, there is significant demand for environmentally sustainable practices in foodservice. A shift to sustainable foodservice operations can decrease its environmental impact and may align with consumer expectations. Objective This systematic review explored consumer expectations (attitudes pre-intervention) and responses (behaviour, cognitive attitudes and affective attitudes post-intervention) towards environmentally sustainable initiatives of foodservice operations. Methods A systematic search following PRISMA guidelines was conducted across MEDLINE, EMABASE, CINAHL, and Web of Science databases. English and full text research articles published up to November 2019 were identified. Consumers’ expectations and responses to interventions were extracted. The quality of the studies was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT). Results Thirty-four studies were included and given the heterogeneity of the studies; results were synthesized narratively. The main outcomes analyzed included changes in behaviour and attitudes (cognitive and affective) including knowledge and satisfaction. Intervention strategies were interpreted and categorized into three groups: food waste reduction, single-use item and packaging waste reduction, and initiatives related to menu, messaging and labelling. Most studies resulted in significant pro-environmental changes towards decreasing food waste, decreasing single use-item and packaging waste, and engaging consumers in sustainable eating. Conclusions There are a range of successful environmentally sustainable strategies that when implemented by foodservices can have a mostly positive impact on consumer attitudes and responses. However, positive consumer attitudes did not always translate to changes in behavior. Foodservices should carefully consider implementing interventions which support changes in consumer behavior.
Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue facing humanity today. There is significant research to support the argument that climate change is a human-created problem and it can only be addressed by changing human behavior. Despite the magnitude of the issue and the potential for behavior science to make a significant contribution, there are few behavior analysts/scientists currently working in climate change. One possible explanation is that there is limited access to preparation for and opportunities to apply our science to large-scale issues. In response, the Behaviorists for Social Responsibility Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International developed the Matrix Project as a way to apply Behavioral Systems Analysis to issues of social importance. By understanding the contingencies that hinder or promote working in a particular area we can begin to create the conditions that will facilitate such work. The purpose of this article is twofold: 1) to demonstrate how the Matrix Project may be used to increase the likelihood that behavior analysts/scientists will work in areas of social importance using environmental sustainability as an example, and 2) encourage behavior analysts/scientists to target and understand complex systems by providing examples of actionable steps that could be generalized to other important social issues.
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The number of practicing behavior analysts who hold Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) certification has substantially increased in the past decade. Some have mistakenly interpreted the BACB’s certification requirements as being specific to the autism and intellectual disabilities practice area. We present key BACB requirements, describe how they are practice-area neutral, and provide specific examples of their relevance to organizational behavior management. © 2018, Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
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This field experiment increased the frequency of curbside recycling among community residents using feedback interventions that targeted personal and social norms. My team of researchers observed curbside recycling behaviors of 605 residents of single-family dwellings for 17 weeks. Groups of contiguous houses were randomly assigned to 1 of 5 experimental conditions: plea, plea plus information, plea plus neighborhood feedback, plea plus individual household feedback, or the control condition. Interventions were implemented using door hangers delivered to each household over a 4-week period. Results showed significant increases from baseline in the frequency of participation and total amount of recycled material for the individual (i.e., personal norm) and the group feedback (i.e., descriptive norm) interventions. None of the interventions altered the amount of contamination observed. These findings are interpreted as consistent with recent research on personal and social norms and suggest a link between behavior change produced through norm activation and behavior change produced through feedback. Implications for research and public policy are discussed.
Based on Bem's self-perception theory, the ″foot-in-the-door″ technique was utilized to induce the pro-environmental behavior of recycling in a sample with no prior history of such behavior. The sample consisted of 291 citizens of a small city chosen at random from nonstudent neighborhoods. Experimental conditions consisted of all permutations of three types of prior requests. Compliance with the final request (recycling), as assessed one to two months later and in an 18-month follow-up, was significantly higher for conditions eliciting compliance with multiple prior request which required subject-originated actions, and particularly for compliance with a prior request high in task similarity with the final request. The results were discussed in terms of implications for induction of enduring subject-originated behavioral compliance.
A functional assessment procedure, which was designed to identify insufficient skills that may have been responsible for employee performance problems, was administered to four foremen employed in a large construction organization. Results of this assessment procedure identified two skill areas, product knowledge and data entry, as deficient. Based on these results, an intervention targeting these performance deficits was implemented. During intervention, instructional and measurement procedures based on Precision Teaching and designed to increase rates of accurate responding were employed. A pair of multiple baseline designs across participants was used to evaluate intervention effectiveness. The intervention resulted in improved skills among all participants. Results suggest that the methods used in this study are a costeffective way of empirically identifying performance deficits and training skills in organizations. Implications for the field of Organizational Behavior Management are discussed and suggestions for future research are provided.
Newspaper recycling, if widely practiced, could contribute to the conservation of natural resources and energy. Two experiments using multiple baseline designs with reversals were conducted to investigate the effects of two procedures-rewards and the proximity of recycling containers-on the amount of newspaper recycled. Baseline consisted of placing recycling container in each of four mobile home parks. In the reward condition, children earned toys for recycling newspaper in two parks; in the proximity condition, six additional recycling containers were made available in the other two parks. The reward condition produced a 92% average increase over baseline while the proximity condition produced a 52% average increase in newspaper recycled.
Receptivity toward paper recycling was examined in relation to people's accuracy with wastepaper separation among: (1) personnel with two wastebaskets in offices, (2) personnel with divided wastebaskets, (3) personnel depositing nonsalvageable waste outside offices. A large university was used for the research, and half of each study group received encouragement to cooperate throughout this experiment. Findings indicated that receptivity and accuracy in wastepaper separation were related positively, but separation was better where the required effort was minimal, as in offices with two wastebaskets. People's accuracy with wastepaper separation deteriorated over time, but not enough to nullify the effect of asking people to participate in a paper recycling program. Encouragement did not have a statistically significant impact on accuracy with separation. Finally, no change in receptivity toward manual wastepaper separation was found among participants after the experiment. Therefore, the investigators concluded that office workers are willing and able to cooperate in paper recycling, though more needs to be known about improving people's accuracy in manual wastepaper separation.
A four-week ABA design was employed to investigate the effects of posted feedback on paper recycling on a college campus. During the feedback condition, a sign was posted in the college mailroom indicating the number of pounds of paper collected the previous day. During the two-week intervention period, feedback increased paper recycling 76.7% above the baseline level. During the one-week follow-up period, when the sign was removed, the positive effects of feedback continued, with paper recycling 48.3% above the baseline level. The implications of these findings for maintaining participation in recycling programs were explored.