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University of Wisconsin-River Falls faculty and staff homeowner perceptions of energy and water conserving measures

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Fitzgerald, Matthew
Buttles, Timothy
MS, Sustainable Community Development
Sep 21, 2012
Energy conservation; Dwellings--Energy conservation; Sustainable community development; Water conservation; Sustainable development
The purpose of this study is to gather perceptions for University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) faculty and staff who are homeowners on their decisions to conserve energy and water. Sustainability is a high priority in UWRF's strategic plan. It is important to understand how a campus culture that supports sustainability can impact its workers perceptions of sustainability and their implementation of sustainable practices in their home. Energy and water are areas of focus for this study. Energy is important due to its impact on personal finances as costs rise, and accounts for a large percentage of an individual's ecologic footprint. Meanwhile, fresh water is a focus because it is a critical limited resource that is under increasing strain from population and consumption growth. Both are areas of focus for the City of River Falls in its municipal efforts toward conservation. For this study, an online survey was administered to UWRF faculty and staff which generated 113 responses. Questions for the survey were adapted from content and cues from multiple peer reviewed research studies and other resources referenced in this paper, census data, content found on governmental web sites like the Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Information Administration and Energy Star. Final survey questions were chosen which would serve as indicators for whether UWRF Faculty and Staff follow the below eight concepts derived from the decision sciences when they make decisions to conserve energy and water. Based on the eight decision science concepts, the results for this study indicate: 1) Information overload - responses do not strongly support or counter the concept that information overload is a major factor in participants' decision to conserve energy and water; 2) Aversion to loss v.s. attraction to gain - responses to some questions supported this concept, and responses to other questions countered this concept that individuals are more averse to loss than they are attracted to gain when making decisions to conserve energy and water; 3) Delayed v.s. immediate benefits and threats - responses supported this concept that participant decisions to conserve energy and water were swayed more by immediate benefits and threats more than by delayed benefits and threats; 4) Finite pool of worry - responses to some questions supported and other questions countered the concept that participants stopped worrying about threats in the future due to more immediate threats; 5) Single action bias - responses countered this concept and showed that although participants believed they and others performed few actions to conserve energy and water, most participants had in fact performed numerous actions; 6) Confirmation bias - some responses supported and some responses countered the concept that participant actions to conserve energy and water follow their biases regarding energy and water conservation; 7) Uncertainty - responses were inconclusive whether participant actions supported or countered the concept that uncertainty is a major factor in their decisions to conserve energy and water; 8) Collective measures and norming - responses supported the concept that individuals were more likely to conserve energy and water if it was seen as collective action, meanwhile social norming was not seen as a motivator for participants.
Plan B Paper. 2012. Master of Science in Agricultural Education--University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Agricultural Education Department. iv + 70 leaves. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 66-67).
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