A 2012 study by Harvard postdoctoral researcher Julia Puaschunder that observed student behavior surrounding energy conservation in Harvard Libraries found that environmentally-conscious actions can be "nudged" by social forces. In her study, Puaschunder placed tent card signage in Harvard Law School's Langdell Library and Widener Library study carrels asking students to turn off their tasklight when finished studying.
The tent cards included one of two logos: a Harvard University logo or a "Sustainability at Harvard" logo. Both tent cards improved students conservation habits, with the Harvard University logo having a slightly stronger effect than the "Sustainability at Harvard" logo, leading the researcher to conclude that both environmental conscientiousness and social norm compliance triggers can help improve conservation behavior. Based on these findings, Harvard Law School will be installing similar tent cards permanently in the Langdell Library study carrels.
This study builds on a 2011 study also conducted by Puaschunder evaluating recycling habits in Harvard dormitories that came to a similar conclusion that signage promoting environmentalism and/or an institutionalized social norm positively affects recycling habits.
- Download Puaschunder's memo for the lighting study (PDF)
- Download Puaschunder's memo on the recycling study (PDF)
Puaschunder may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Please note these studies have not been peer-reviewed.