Open Collections

UBC Graduate Research

Grounded Strategies : Proposal for Reducing Air Travel Emissions through Behavioural Intervention Enright, Emily; Dilling-Hansen, Rasmus; Kirupa, Dinoba; Walker, Mackenzie 2020-04-10

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


66428-Enright_E_et_al_GPP_581_Grounded_strategies_proposal_reducing_air_travel_emissions_final_report.pdf [ 2.35MB ]
JSON: 66428-1.0392596.json
JSON-LD: 66428-1.0392596-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 66428-1.0392596-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 66428-1.0392596-rdf.json
Turtle: 66428-1.0392596-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 66428-1.0392596-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 66428-1.0392596-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report Grounded Strategies:  Proposal for Reducing Air Travel Emissions through Behavioural Intervention Emily Enright, Rasmus Dilling-Hansen, Dinoba Kirupa, Mackenzie Walker University of British Columbia Course: GPP 581 Themes: Climate, Transportation, Community Date: April 10, 2020 Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS Sustainability Program provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student research project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Sustainability Program representative about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”. APRIL 2020GROUNDED STRATEGIES: PROPOSAL FOR REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONS THROUGH BEHAVIOURAL INTERVENTIONPREPARED FOR: SEEDS SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMUNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAPREPARED BY: EMILY ENRIGHTRASMUS DILLING-HANSENDINOBA KIRUPAMACKENZIE WALKERApril 10, 2020SEEDS Sustainability ProgramUniversity of British Columbia Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability2260 West Mall, 2nd FloorVancouver BC V6T 1Z4Attention: Rowan WaldronProject: Final Project for UBC GPP 581 Behavioural Foundations of Public PolicyRegarding: Proposal For Reducing Air Travel Emissions Through Behavioural InterventionsDear Rowan Waldron:We are pleased to submit this proposal to SEEDS on behalf of our project team and the University of British Columbia in fulfillment of our GPP 581 - Behavioural Foundations of Public Policy course requirements. We trust that this proposal meets your needs and we look forward to following the progress which is made on this initiative going forward. If you have any questions or comments regarding this proposal, please do not hesitate to contact us. Sincerely,     Emily Enright Student, Public Policy and Global Affairs  Dinoba Kirupa Student, Public Policy and Global Affairs Jiaying Zhao, Professor Department of Psychology, UBC Rasmus Dilling-Hansen Student, Public Policy and Global Affairs MacKenzie WalkerStudent, Community and Regional Planning SIGNED ON HARD COPY ONLYPAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK4REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSINTRODUCTIONUBC faculty members continue to fly to meetings and conferences, despite greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from air travel being one of the primary sources of emissions for the University. This trend can be explained by two key behavioural gaps. First, the dissonance gap refers to the disparity between awareness of air travel emissions on climate change, and actual positive behavioural change.1 UBC faculty members continue to choose air travel as their mode of transportation, despite the significant environmental impacts of air travel. Second, the value-action gap, refers to the divide between pro-environmental behaviours at home and the suppression or reduction of these behaviours when travelling.11 Those who engage in pro-environmental behaviours at home are less likely to continue these behaviours when travelling for leisure, holiday or work.2 While there is research on behavioural incentives and nudges to reduce air travel, virtually no experiments have been conducted on reducing demand for air travel for academic institutions. UCLA AIR TRAVEL MITIGATION FUND PROGRAM 5REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSPOLICY EXAMPLESUCLA attempted to reduce air travel emissions through their Air Travel Mitigation Fund Program, which aims to offset carbon. The funding program charges a fee for domestic ($9) and international ($25) travel.3 The fee is deducted when travellers submit reimbursement requests. Fees collected go to local, on-campus environmental projects. UCLA argues that the prices are low enough for researchers to continue their work but also high enough to somewhat contribute towards offsetting carbon.3 First, the intervention does not challenge current behaviour or social norms, but instead attempts to justify behaviours through carbon-offsetting. Second, the intervention does not reduce emissions from air travel, and thus is ineffective. In contrast, OPOWER successfully decreased household energy use through Home Energy Reports. The reports provide feedback to customers on their energy use and tips on how to save energy; and compares the household’s energy use with neighbours, providing information on 100 of the nearest houses of similar size and energy use.4  Electricity consumption decreased by 1.9-2% for over 15 million homes. Therefore, valid behavioural assumptions have been made in this case. The intervention actively uses social norms, competitiveness, feedback, convenience and efficiency to change households’ energy consumption, resulting in a positive change of consumers’ energy use. SOCIAL NORMS TO REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMPTIONFLIGHT EMISSIONS OFFSETOPOWER HOUSEHOLD ENERGY CONSUMPTION EFFICIENCY: there is a sense of efficiency behind flying to a conference or meeting relative to bussing or car-pooling. Additionally, having conferences in person tends to feel more productive.6REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSTARGET BEHAVIOURSThe identified target behaviour is that UBC faculty members frequently travel by air. This is problematic because air travel emissions at UBC were equivalent to 41% of on-campus emissions in 2018.5 Furthermore, the following psychological processes,6 together reinforce the problematic target behaviour, leading to air travel remaining a prevalent mode of transportation. CONVENIENCE:  the option to fly has been made extremely convenient, making other modes of transportation less attractive. FEEDBACK: people are unaware of how much GHG emissions they emit when making transportation SOCIAL NORMS: due to the simplicity and convenience of flying, it has become the social norm.COMPETITION: faculty members are not rewarded for smaller carbon footprints relative to their peers. Additionally, tenure requirements foster competition to fly abroad. The dashboard on the MSP provides faculty members with feedback on the following: • The emissions target per year for faculty members. This target will be set in collaboration between SEEDS and each faculty based on emissions from previous years and minimum travel requirements.  • SEEDs feedback report on individual & departmental emissions will be provided every 3 to 6 months (due to temporal discounting). The report will include: Temporal discounting refers to the idea that individuals psychologically tend to postpone problems and losses to the future. It also points to the idea that present rewards are given greater weight than future rewards. In this context, if feedback reports are only provided annually, there is the potential that faculty members may not care to be aware of their behavior and the amount of emissions they consume until year end. Additionally, any success in reducing emissions is an immediate incentive to continue the behaviour rather than waiting until year end for this reward. Hence, it is advised that feedback reports also be sent to faculty every 3 to 6 months.7REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSBEHAVIOURAL INTERVENTIONS• PART 1: Quantifies the emissions generated through providing feedback in order to influence social norms. PART 1: SOCIAL NORMS AS FEEDBACK ON EMISSIONS GENERATEDFeedback will be provided to individual faculty members and the entire community through a dashboard that is embedded within the UBC Management Systems Portal (MSP). The MSP is where UBC faculty and employees go to view and update their personal information such as expense reimbursements. The dashboard uses the psychological processes of convenience, efficiency, and competition. Providing information automatically reduces the obstacles to obtaining information on emissions making the dashboard convenient and efficient for faculty members. Second, feedback informs the community on aggregate departmental emissions, which will help provide a cultural shift and a sense of healthy competition. This will ultimately improve knowledge, awareness, and transparency while influencing new social norms around modes of transportation.• Calculation of emissions per trip upon reimbursement application.• Data on how much individual faculty members are emitting relative to their departamental average and UBC average. • Data on individual and departmental emission improvement/regression relative to previous report(s).• Calculation on where individual faculty members and department aggregate stands relative to the target. • PART 2: Quantifies the emissions avoided through providing information about the carbon savings from teleconferencing. The proposed intervention consists of two parts: PART 2: FEEDBACK ON EMISSIONS AVOIDED (VIA TELECONFERENCING)INCREASE SALENCE THROUGH DISPLAYING PARTICIPANT LOCATIONHIGHLIGHT LOCATIONVANCOUVER, CA8REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSData collected on reduction of emissions by faculty should be framed positively when feedback is provided. Integrating a distance calculator into virtual conferencing platforms at UBC will allow faculty to proactively calculate GHG emissions avoided by meeting online. This emissions calculator would be at the bottom or top of the page when members log into the teleconferencing platform. In order to calculate the emissions, several assumptions will be required. We propose the following as a starting point: • Distance will be calculated between the individual participant and the host of the meeting.• The location for each participant would be self-declared at login. Alternatively,  the IP address could be used but would require geospatial analysis to determine the nearest airport. • Only air travel emissions will be included which excludes other transportation emissions such as travel to and from the airport.• Economy class air travel will be the default. The following sections provide details on how this intervention will work to change behaviour through improving salience of the provided feedback.  A visual reminder, the local skyline could be set automatically as the background of each participant, similar to Zoom. Confidentiality of their location should be an option for privacy purposes. FEEDBACK9REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSFEEDBACKAPPLAUD THE CUMULATIVE SUCCESS OF ACTIONS Recognition should be offered when an emissions reduction milestone is achieved (see example below). These personalized announcements can be shared with the individual and also the participants of the meeting. This will incentivize competition and influence social norms. Injunctive norms such as “Great job! You’re in the top 10 best faculty members”, will encourage reduction of emissions through promotion of positive social behaviour while reducing the  likelihood of the rebound effect occuring.  MILESTONESCONVERT RESULTS TO SIMPLE EXAMPLESIt is likely a challenge for most citizens, including faculty, to relate their actions to the impact of one tonne of CO2 equivalent emissions. The proposed intervention seeks to improve understanding and GHG emissions literacy through converting emissions into relatable contexts. In order to support this objective we recommend including multiple formats of emissions reductions data to improve salience and maintain novelty. For example, the tonnes of CO2 could be translated into the distance that could be travelled in a Toyota Prius. EQUIVALENTS ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF TELECONFERENCING SHOWN IN DASHBOARDThe ‘Command Center’ (see image below) is a meeting performance and analytics dashboard. Users can easily track the decline in their carbon emissions along with the amount of money saved on travel. EXAMPLE: BLUEJEANS TELECONFERENCINGBlueJeans teleconferencing is providing users information on how using teleconferencing reduces expenses which would have otherwise been spent on airfare and hotel stays. NICE WORK FIRSTNAME! MEETING SAVED X.XTONNES OF CO2THAT IS EQUIVALENT TO DRIVING A TOYATO PRIUS X,XXX KMS! LOWERED GHG EMISSIONS10ANALYSIS & OUTCOMESIntegrating a dashboard into current UBC teleconferencing platforms will provide faculty members with an efficient and convenient way of obtaining emissions feedback. This feedback will incite healthy competition amongst faculty, changing social norms and ultimately promote the reduction of GHG emissions. SUCCESSFUL  behaviour change is: • Reduction in frequency of flights• Intermittent and sparse flights per faculty member • Change in social norms between departments and amongst faculty on awareness of emission target when flight booking TARGET successful outcomes are: • Reduction in frequency of flights, both on individual and aggregate scale, over the years• Increased use of improved and up-to-date facilities, as well as better IT support for setup and use. • Number of flights per faculty member• Distance travelled per faculty member• Annual emissions to observe progress and cultural shift • Dashboard logins measure active faculty interest• Email engagements measures interest in feedback reportsMETRICS TO MEASURE SUCCESSINCREASEDAWARENESS OF GHG EMISSIONSLOWERED GHG EMISSIONSCOMPETITIVE GHG ECONOMY BETWEEN FACULTYINCREASED DEMAND FOR TRAVEL ALTERNATIVES11REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSEXPECTEDRESULTSTELECONFERENCING SUPPORTTeleconferencing platforms can be an anxious experience for new faculty users. We propose the following to improve convenience and efficiency of teleconferencing: • Provide UBC IT staff support to faculty who are currently required to contact TELUS for support with teleconferencing. We propose that UBC setup teleconferencing support within the IT Department. Staff should be available on demand or as meeting moderators to ensure that important events go smoothly. • Provide training and encouragement including initial setup, tutorial services by appointment, and internal UBC staff meetings should be encouraged to have a teleconferencing option.  Improve quality of communication through training, which is  not solely focused on the software but, to also include best practices on how to collaborate effectively online. Most importantly, training should focus on how to maintain enthusiasm towards the meeting, the technology and the opportunities which it provides. Although we believe that these behavioural interventions are likely to be effective based on our understanding of behavioural science, these interventions have not been tested in this context. 12REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSIMPLICATIONS AND SCALINGCurrently UBC faculty do not see teleconferencing as a viable alternative to air travel due to inadequate telecommunications infrastructure and IT support. A combination of behavioural incentives, institutional regulations, technological innovations and knowledge dissemination are required for effective long-term behavioural change. The following complementary policies aim to support alternatives to recurring travel.  We recognize that there are some meetings that greatly benefit from in-person interaction. We believe that faculty currently lack alternatives to avoid recurring travel, which will be required to scale the use of teleconferencing. We recommend:• Introduce travel efficiency into project planning through integration into the approval process. Discussions about the most efficient means to carry out an academic project, be it research or otherwise, should be reviewed and discussed to condense trips into longer but less frequent trips; this will reduce the total amount of travel.• Provide best practices for project planning including a focus on the joint benefits of efficiency through travel time reduction and reduced carbon emissions. The Design Sprint, developed by Google team members is a five day process for answering crucial questions through testing ideas. By dedicating the five day work period, groups have found that they reach better outcomes and are more efficient. This is achieved because the process avoids the inefficiency and distractions of trying to balance multiple projects at the same time and  lost momentum between meetings.   Although design sprints are traditionally used for product development, there is potential for the method to be adapted to apply to collaborative research work. FUNDINGThere are a few challenges that we anticipate will be encounted when attempting to scale these interventions. Disseminating reports every 3 - 6 months and calculating the emissions per trip upon reimbursement application from faculty members will require more staff and funding, as data collection will grow. COMPETITIONSocial norms take time to form, and because funding for work-related travel is a public good within departments, a free rider problem may occur with regard to flight opportunities. Some members may take advantage of a faculty member implementing self control when it comes to opportunities to travel for work. This could lead to uneven development of careers across faculty members during the transitionary period of old social norms to new ones. Therefore, self-control regarding flight opportunities should be implemented on a large scale to incentivize people to reduce flying and the consequences of the free rider problem.Furthermore, once UBC faculty members and departments adjust to the new social norms after the transitionary period, competition is going to remain a challenge between universities. Although UBC faculty will be properly rewarded through new social norms for cutting back on their emissions, faculty and departments at other universities will not be; they have yet to develop new social norms around reducing work-related flights. As a result, UBC faculty could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage relative to their peers. This is particularly important considering GHG emissions by faculty members are currently not factors in university rankings. This could have implications for UBC’s status if the rate of publishing academic papers lowers as a result; or if sought after faculty members consider the lack of flight opportunities as a sizeable disadvantage when selecting a school; thus reinforcing the need for strong teleconferencing and project management mechanisms is particularly crucial. 13REDUCING AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSIMPLICATIONS AND SCALINGEFFICIENT TRAVEL STRATEGIESCHALLENGES OF SCALING WORKS CITED1 Higham, James,  Scott A. Cohen, Christina T. Cavaliere, Arianne Reis, Weibke Finkler. “Climate Change, Tourist Air Travel And Radical Emissions Reduction.” Journal Of Cleaner Production, 111 (2016) 336 - 347.2 Nicholas, Kimberly A, and Seth Wynes. “Changing Behaviour to Help Meet Long-Term Climate Targets: The necessity of behaviour change to meet climate targets.” World Resources Institute. Retrieved from Ucla. “Ucla Business-Related Air Travel Carbon Mitigation: 2018-2020 Pilot Program.” The University Of California, Los Angeles. Published 1 January, 2018. Retrieved from Laskey, Alex and Ogi Kavazovic. “OPOWER: Energy efficiency through behavioural science and technology.” RightsLink for Scientific Communication 17 (4) 2011: 1 -5. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1145/1961678.1961687. 5 Wynes, Seth. “Research Air Travel At Ubc.” Presentation, Gpp581: Behavioural Foundations For Public Policy, Vancouver, February, 2020. 6 Owain Service, Michael Hallsworth, David Halpern, Felicity Algate, Rory Gallagher, Sam Nguyen, Simon Ruda, Michael Sanders with Marcos Pelenur, Alex Gyani, Hugo Harper, Joanne Reinhard & Elspeth Kirkman. “EAST: Four simple ways to apply behavioural insights.” The behavioural Insights Team, 11 April, 2014. Retrieved from AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONSVISUAL CREDITSAwareness meter. Retrieved from:è-tra-la-brand-awareness-e-la-seo-600x315@2x.jpgToyota Pruis. Retrieved from: Center by BlueJeans. Retrieved from: Emissions Offsets. Retrieved from: Management Systems Portal. Retrieved on April 7, 2020 from: GHG Emissions. Retrieved from: Exhaust. Retrieved from: Starting Line. Retrieved from: Skyline. Retrieved from: CO2 emissions. Retrieved from: Videoconferencing. Retrieved from:


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items