Household Environmental Monitoring Project

Co-author

Goals:

This study was developed to motivate environmentally sustainable behaviour and reduce carbon emissions at the household level by providing a group of twenty households within an established central Ottawa neighbourhood with:

  1. a clear assessment of their environmental impacts;
  2. tailored solutions to reduce those impacts; and
  3. a comparison of each household’s resource use in relation to other households in the study group.

Method:

Household environmental impacts were assessed by looking at home heating and electricity use, water use, waste generation, and vehicle fuel consumption. During a one week monitoring period, each household tracked their consumption patterns, while the research team gathered physical information about each home and lot, and calculated previous year utility bills. Participants’ homes were also assessed through a federal government-sponsored home energy audit.

This information was then assembled into a personalized report for each household that detailed residents’ resource consumption patterns in comparison with other households in the study group. The report also provided a list of recommended measures that were prioritized to cost-effectively reduce each household’s environmental impact. Study group households were also invited to participate in a community forum to discuss the monitoring results and their general impressions of the study process.

One year after the initial monitoring period, participants provided information about any conservation measures they had implemented over the year, as well as updated vehicle mileage readings and utility bills.

Results/Knowledge Gained:

The study technique produced concrete reductions in household environmental impacts among the study group. Across the households, one-quarter of the recommended environmental measures were implemented over the year, resulting in an estimated average GHG reduction of about 12%, or 2 tonnes per household and 0.77 tonnes per occupant.

The community-based social marketing (CBSM) technique that was employed in this study proved useful in motivating participants towards significant reductions in resource use, as households maintained interest and participation throughout the study period. Participants commented that they became much more aware of their consumption and environmental impact by taking part in the study, and they evaluated this personalized technique as more useful than several existing government-sponsored projects.

Participant survey results indicated that top priorities in making decisions about home upgrades were improving comfort and lowering operating costs, while reducing environmental impact and improving air quality were ranked as lower priorities. The major obstacles to reducing environmental impact for these households were financial cost and a lack of time and knowledge to evaluate and implement environmental measures.