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Theory + practice: Promoting sustainable behavior in real-world settings


Collaborations between academics and practitioners can bring rich opportunities to concurrently advance theory and make practical impacts. However, numerous well-documented barriers hinder such collaborations, yielding limited examples of success and a need for lessons learned to guide future efforts. This talk will cover several collaborative studies in which academics and practitioners teamed up to successfully design and deliver interventions aimed at promoting sustainable behavior in residential settings. Findings advance theory and have practical implications. For instance, one study leveraged smart grid infrastructure as part of an energy reduction intervention. It explores whether a competition-based intervention fosters group cohesion in a group residential setting, as well as the influence of changes in group cohesion on energy conservation behaviors. Another study focuses on behavioral spillover, or the phenomenon observed when engaging in an initial target behavior, often the target of a behavioral intervention, is linked to performance of another, seemingly unrelated behavior. Using data from a longitudinal field experiment, this study investigates whether beginning to compost results in spillover to household waste prevention behaviors, including food, energy, and water waste prevention. In addition to covering intervention results, theoretical implications, and practical impacts, lessons learned for successful academia-practitioner relationships will be shared.


Dr. Nicole Sintov is Assistant Professor of Behavior, Decision-Making, and Sustainability in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University. She is also an OSU Sustainable and Resilient Economies Discovery Theme affiliate. As an environmental psychologist, her work focuses on designing and evaluating interventions aimed at encouraging pro-environmental behavior. Additionally, she investigates psychosocial processes of change that occur during behavioral interventions to uncover truths about more than just which behaviors change, but also how and why such changes occur. She pursues these objectives as they pertain to a variety of domain areas, including building energy use, sustainable technology adoption, and the food-energy-water nexus. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, US Department of Energy, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, World Wildlife Fund, and US Army Research Office. She holds a B.S. in Psychology / Ecology from the University of California, San Diego, and a Master’s in Psychology, graduate certificate in Sustainable Cities, and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Southern California. Learn more about the work in Nicole’s research group here.