Effectiveness of conservation messages to reduce households' GHG emissions: A serious-gaming experiment

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Households play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, there have been few studies of household conservation from the perspective of the nexus of food, energy, and water (FEW) consumption. This study's objective is to understand the effects of different types of intervention messages for inducing conservation of FEW resources and reducing carbon emissions at the household level in the U.S. Employing a serious-gaming approach, we developed the HomeRUN (Home Role-play for Understanding the Nexus) game, which allows players to act as homeowners and take behavioral and technological upgrade actions in a computer-simulation setting. The types of messages tested include social comparisons and resource-reduction measures across FEW sectors as well as information about the health, economic, and environmental impacts of FEW consumption. A game experiment with U.S. university students finds that social-comparison messages on food and energy consumption, but not on water, lead to significant reductions in household carbon emissions. In addition, messages associated with each type of FEW resource tend to lead to an immediate action corresponding to the particular FEW domain. These insights support a prioritization of intervention messaging for coordinated FEW conservation efforts at a household level.

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Journal of Environmental Management