Research Papers: Design Theory and Methodology

Exploring the Effects of a Product's Sustainability Triggers on Pro-Environmental Decision-Making

[+] Author and Article Information
Jinjuan She

The MathWorks,
Natick, MA 01760
e-mail: shejinjuan@gmail.com

Erin F. MacDonald

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Stanford University,
Stanford, CA 94305
e-mail: erinmacd@stanford.edu

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received September 9, 2016; final manuscript received September 7, 2017; published online November 10, 2017. Assoc. Editor: Harrison M. Kim.

J. Mech. Des 140(1), 011102 (Nov 10, 2017) (13 pages) Paper No: MD-16-1629; doi: 10.1115/1.4038252 History: Received September 09, 2016; Revised September 07, 2017

The gap between consumers saying that they want and selecting sustainable products can be addressed through product design. Our previous research proposed a method for creating visible product features that trigger pro-environmental behavior in consumers, termed sustainability triggers (STs). The study below designed two experiments to mimic real-world decision scenarios and demonstrated that exposure to these STs caused pro-environmental behavior in two test versus control experiments. The experiments used both realistic prototypes and images of toasters. In experiment 1, a qualitative preference-elicitation method demonstrated that exposure to STs increased thoughts of sustainability—related decision criteria. In experiment 2, subjects' prioritization of “hidden” sustainability-related attributes, shipping method and energy usage, was higher if exposed to the STs. This was indicated by choice, information search, importance rating, and eye tracking. Thus, the novel design method to create product STs is demonstrated effective in the test case and has the potential to broadly benefit the success of sustainable products in the market.

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Fig. 1

(a) Tybout and Hauser's [19] consumer behavior model, and (b) the adaptation to the study-at-hand

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Fig. 2

Sustainability triggers: (a) flip-cover to retain heat, (b) two bread-depressing levers, (c) power-save button, (d) embossed leaf pattern, and (e) power levels on dial

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Fig. 3

Toasters as shown in a decision task, test condition (STs on some toasters)

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Fig. 4

Experimental flow for the main procedures

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Fig. 5

For the email task, (a) more test subjects Yes/Pos mention sustainability; (b) test subjects Yes/Pos mention sustainability more frequently; error bars show±1 standard error

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Fig. 6

Example information card from experiment 2, shown with toaster images/prototypes. Note hidden sustainability information on shipping method and energy usage.

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Fig. 7

An illustration for task 3: (a) The attribute information of a pair that cannot be obtained directly by visual inspection of the physical prototypes is concealed under strips of paper. (b) After a subject ranks the attributes, the first three attributes in the subject's rank are revealed: (a) attribute configurations are concealed and (b) top three attribute configurations are revealed.

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Fig. 8

An example of the AOIs generated for a stimulus

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Fig. 9

Sustainable toasters are more likely to be selected in the test condition, i.e., H1 is marginally supported (p < 0.1, compare test to control)

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Fig. 10

Average ranking of each attribute in revealed information task. Sustainable attribute average ranking is higher in the test condition (“*” p < 0.05. H3)

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Fig. 11

The presence of STs increases importance of and attention to sustainable attributes (“.” p < 0.1, “*” p < 0.05, error bars show ±1 standard error): (a) attention to sustainable attributes is greater in the test condition, eye-tracking task (H4 and H5) and (b) Δimportance of sustainable attributes relative to other nonsustainable attributes is greater in the test condition (H6)

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Fig. 12

Nominal logistic regressions reveal that hypothesis H1 is strongly supported by choice in pair 3 (“*” p < 0.05)



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