In the area of sustainability, HCI researchers are designing interactive systems that involve users as active decision-makers rather than being mere passive consumers of energy. Consequently, the emphasis for the designers of these systems is on social or technological interventions that can induce behavior changes that reduce energy consumption. Over the last decade of HCI research, the topic of sustainability was associated
with a broad range of domains and user behaviors.
In our research we have been focussing on the work place as one essential factor and context that influences and impacts the individual’s behaviour and its sustainability.
The Print Awareness Tool (PAT)
focussed specifically on technologies that support sustainable behaviours in the work place. PAT promotes more sustainable print behaviour in a corporate work environment providing employees with ambient awareness on their printing habits.
This is addressed by involving both the individual employee and the work organization in a common effort to reduce unnecessary printing and thus (paper) waste.
An experimental deployment of PAT at XRCE showed the effectiveness of this approach: participants reported taking it personally, thinking twice before issuing a print job, and, in consequence, adopting various changes in their print behaviour. At the same time participants actively pin pointed ineffective paper based workflows.
We are now applying the learning from the PAT design to the area of mobility, and more specifically of commuting. This project focuses on promoting sustainable commuting which is a key domain for the objective of reducing energy consumption and pollution and improve the quality of life for commuters. Sustainable commuting typically implies changes in transportation habits from car driving to other, greener, transportation modes, e.g. using public transportation, cycling, or walking. However, changing the transportation habits of large populations of citizens is challenging.
Local governments have developed interventions to support sustainable mobility, but often the interventions do not reach the critical mass necessary to have sufficient impact. An emergent, promising, practice among numerous local governments is to use “travel plans” as policy interventions, where they engage work organisations as active players to promote sustainable commuting among their employees. While travel plans have been successfully used in some countries, it still remains difficult to systematically engage organizations and their employees in such efforts. In our research we are studying the barriers and how to address the often poor synergy among the three stakeholders, local government, work organisations, and commuters, which reduces the impact of their “siloed” initiatives.