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Building design influences recycling behaviour, UBC study

A recent study conducted in two very different cafeterias at the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus shows that people are more likely to be environmentally responsible in a "green building".

A group of UBC psychology researchers examined the recycling behaviour of a broad range of students in the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), a so-called "living laboratory" for sustainability research, and the Student Union Building (SUB), a bunker-like structure from the late 1960s.

In the SUB, 58% of patrons correctly disposed of their trash. At CIRS, the rate was significantly higher, 86%.

“We concluded that being in an environmentally sustainable building can lead to more environmentally sustainable behaviour”, says David Wu, research assistant at the UBC Brain and Attention Research Lab and the study co-author.

The study conducted by researchers Alan Kingstone, Alessandra DiGiacomo and David Wu concluded that just being in a green building makes people act more sustainably (Martin Dee)

'A good first step"

The study is a ‘good first step’ towards understanding the relationship between building design and people’s recycling behavior.

"It's the first study of its kind... It'll serve more as a springboard for future studies to work on this idea", says Wu. 

Wu believes the collaboration between researchers, architects, designers and administrators is crucial to develop solutions that will bring change in people’s attitudes toward sustainability.

“It’s something that’s a bit lacking. There’s often a ‘disconnect’ between researchers and people on the public policy side", Wu says.

More collaboration between researchers and municipal authorities

At the moment, researchers at the UBC Brain and Attention Research Lab are sharing their findings with Metro Vancouver, an entity that delivers regional services, policy and political leadership on behalf of 24 local authorities.

“I think our lab is trying to bridge some of that by working with the people of Metro Vancouver, says David Wu. “We can help them find empirically based solutions, instead of, perhaps, them just intuitively guessing about what might be best.”

David Wu and his colleagues hope to be able to support metro Vancouver's administrators' conclusions and policy decisions with behavioral data.


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