This Influence of Social Norms on Recycling Behavior in Urban Multi-family Buildings research project is led by Stony Brook University in the Department of Technology and Society within the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. and is sponsored by the Environmental Research and Education Foundation. The goal of this research project is to assess the effectiveness of two social norm-based interventions on recycling behavior in an urban residential setting. The study will investigate the effect competition and peer pressure can have on recycling participation rates, diversion rates, and contamination rates. The results from this study can help inform building managers, policy makers, and the solid waste industry at large of the effectiveness of these two strategies for improving recycling behavior.
Conduct a baseline assessment of recycling and building site characteristics including waste sorts to develop an understanding of pre-intervention rates on recycling participation, diversion and contamination.
Conduct a survey to assess existing pro-environmental motivations and self-reported recycling behavior in the resident population.
Conduct the social norm interventions over a 12-week period and collect data on recycling behavior. Three buildings with three separate treatments will be used for this assessment. The three treatments are: no intervention (control), competition, and peer pressure. The competition intervention will involve scoring each floor weekly and distributing the “grades” to all residents. The peer pressure intervention will rely on a volunteer peer leader from each floor to motivate and promote recycling efforts. Each peer leader will be provided a specific plan to follow in order to maintain consistency throughout the building.
Concluding surveys will be conducted at the end of the 12-week intervention study to determine post-intervention rates of recycling participation, diversion and contamination. In addition, a follow up survey will be conducted six months later to assess the persistence of any behavioral changes that may have resulted from the study.
Data analysis will be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the two social norm-based interventions. Metrics to be assed include diversion rate per building, volume of recycling per floor, and sorting and contamination data. Statistical analyses will include diversion rates and contamination rates as predicted by resident characteristics; diversion rates and contamination rates as predicted by intervention type; self-reported behavior changes as predicted by intervention type; among others, to be determined as appropriate for the project. All fieldwork, data and analysis will be summarized in technical reports and ultimately published in peer review articles.
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