Interactions between household members in pro-environmental behaviour and attitudes

S. Yang; E. Gabe-Thomas; S. Seebauer (chair). Location: A8

Symposium: Interactions between household members in pro-environmental behaviour and attitudes

Organiser: S. Seebauer

Many approaches for private energy conservation regard each household as a uniform unit. This holds true as all household members e.g. share the same building characteristics, jointly pay the energy bill and are measured by the same electricity meter. Policy actions like energy taxes, building regulations or retrofitting/insulation indeed affect the entire household. However, when it comes to 'soft' interventions for energy conservation behaviour, the persons within the household may engage in diverging, sometimes even conflicting actions depending on their individual preferences and everyday activity. Consistency between household members may vary whether actions are jointly undertaken (e.g., weekend trips), directly affect the other’s comfort (e.g., setting the room temperature), are easily observable by the others (e.g., turning off the light when leaving the room), or are commonly agreed (e.g., purchasing electrical appliances). Energy saving supposedly is more effective if all household members mutually perform the intended actions (e.g., turning off devices in stand-by mode). The symposium connects evidence that different members of multi-person households indeed pursue energy saving with varying commitment. The combined results suggest that energy conservation measures should approach the specific household member undertaking the target behaviour, and should ensure that all household members act in concert.

His, Hers or Both? The role of partners’ individual and combined attitudes in explaining household energy use behaviours

S. Yang, M. Shipworth, & G. Huebner

Even though home energy use is the result of actions of all members of a household, most building energy research that does explore the role of attitudes measures just one person’s attitudes. The research reported here explored whether the attitudes of both partners in 128 English couples could explain more of the variability in home heating behaviours than the attitudes of just one partner. Participating couples held moderately similar attitudes towards heating energy use. Their attitudes to being economical with energy were the most similar (r = 0.64), while their attitudes to thermal comfort were the least similar (r = 0.45). Moreover, including both male and female partner attitudes explained heating use behaviours significantly more than the attitudes of a single partner did, increasing the explanatory power of the models roughly four percentage points to 21% (for heating hours) and 25% (for heating hours), over the models with only one partners’ attitudes (plus building and socio-demographics). The results of this study suggest that home energy conservation interventions targeted at both partners might be more successful than those targeted at the male or female partner only; future research could explore this as well as the influence of other household members.

The value of individuals’ responses in surveys of household energy use

E. Gabe-Thomas, I. Walker, & B.Verplanken

Research into the behavioural antecedents of domestic resource consumption, for example energy use, is faced with a significant challenge. Behavioural antecedents are typically measured at the individual level whilst resource consumption is measured at the household level. Typically surveys are completed by one household member on behalf of all members. Three studies are presented which explore the implications of this discrepancy when considering values, habits and attitudes towards energy saving. The first study explored the similarity of household members’ survey responses. Households of two or more occupants completed a short survey measuring behavioural antecedents of energy saving. The results suggest that there is some discrepancy between the attitudes and values of different householders. A second study explored the extent to which one household member could accurately predict the combined responses of other household members, again revealing some discrepancy in responses. In a third study, behavioural antecedents were measured alongside energy consumption indicators as part of a larger interdisciplinary project. The extent to which the behavioural antecedents predicted energy consumption in households of single and multiple occupants was compared. Collectively, the findings suggest that studies of domestic energy demand should consider the responses of more than one member of the household.

Interactions in the mobility behaviour of household members: Same-day and next-day effects on maintenance trips over the week

S. Seebauer

Individual mobility choices are embedded in the household context. Transport research and policy may profit from a perspective on everyday mobility that includes how household members coordinate their trips and share the household maintenance workload. The study empirically investigates the causal effects of household members on each other’s mobility behaviour over the course of the week. The longitudinal analysis applying cross-lagged autoregressive models draws on data from trip diaries completed by 421 German male-female adult couples over a full week in 2011. The results show that household members coordinate shopping and escort trips for the same day, but do not engage in reciprocal influences over consecutive weekdays. Restricted mobility choices from childcare or work time schedules lead to higher same-day interactions at the end of the week. Throughout, within-person habitual stability exceeds between-person interaction. The results suggest to focus the design of alternative mobility services on same-day interactions, e.g. by considering the requirements, daytimes and situations when households make coordinative decisions.

A household is not a person: Consistency of energy conservation behaviour and pro-environmental values between household members

M. Schweighart, S. Seebauer, & J. Fleiss

In many studies, just a single household member is interviewed in place of the entire household, assuming consistent behaviour of all household members. The present study verifies in how far household members act consistently, i.e. whether their self-reported actions converge. In standardized interviews with 84 Austrian couples, each person provided self-reports on his or her own pro-environmental behaviour, covering everyday mobility as well as energy saving in space heating, hot water consumption, and use of electrical household appliances. Furthermore, we compare environmental values between partners. The results confirm considerable incongruence between household members: Travel mode choice, regulating room temperature and environmental values correlate with r=.40 to r=.50. Correlations for less observable behaviours are substantially lower, such as trip length, turning off the light when leaving the room, and water use for showering. More effective energy conservation services should consider how members of a household share domestic chores, and in how far they individually feature problem awareness regarding energy saving. From our field experience, just making couples aware that they perceive the personal and the partner’s energy saving efforts differently, may be an initial intervention strategy.