Lovable sustainability : from residential solar PV systems to eco-feedback designs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Maria C. Yang.
MetadataShow full item record
Traditional research in sustainable product design strongly emphasizes the material and energy domains and aims to reduce resource consumption and waste production in the manufacturing process and at the end of the product lifecycle. Less attention has been paid to products' environmental impact in the use phase and market adoption of sustainable products, which are also important components of sustainability and are heavily influenced by how users perceive products and how they use them. This points to an opportunity to apply user-centered design strategies to the realm of design for environmental sustainability. This thesis investigates the relationship between sustainable products and their users. The overarching goal is to gain knowledge of how to design lovable sustainable products, which are desirable and have strong emotional connections with users, to increase product adoption and to encourage sustainable product use.Two classes of sustainable products, residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and eco-feedback products, are investigated as case studies. Residential solar PV systems produce clean energy and allow for energy independence of individual households. Via stakeholder interviews, key attributes of residential solar PV system and installation that users are concerned with are identified, including system reliability and installer reputation. Discrete choice experiments with 1773 homeowners in California and Massachusetts shed light on how they make tradeoffs between these attributes. The findings provide first-hand information on homeowners' needs and preferences for residential solar PV systems and open up opportunities for designing more attractive and more widely adopted renewable energy systems. Eco-feedback products provide information on resource usage with the aim of encouraging resource conservation behavior in users.Surveys of 658 university students in two countries revealed that quantitative feedback in these products better aids users with higher knowledge about resource consumption; however, emotionally evocative information aids users who have low or high consumption knowledge to a similar degree. In-lab experiments with 68 participants of a wide range of ages and backgrounds show that users' resource conservation behaviors are strongly linked to negative emotions (such as guilt) towards waste of resources; and, better product evaluations have stronger links with positive emotions (such as satisfaction) towards conservation. These results suggest the value of creating emotionally evocative eco-feedback products and fostering positive emotions in order to improve user engagement. These studies provide guidelines for sustainable product design and offer experimental approaches to facilitate future research in user-centered design for sustainability.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2019Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 137-152).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology