UBC Undergraduate Research

Nudging the Tap Open Saksena, Sasha; Kathuria, Ayush 2020-04-20

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report         Nudging the Tap Open Sasha Saksena & Ayush Kathuria University of British Columbia Course: PSYC 421 Themes: Water, Waste, Wellbeing Date: April 20, 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”.  Executive Summary  The present study was a two phased investigation, inspecting the gap in literacy that leads to a preference for bottled water over tap water on the UBC Vancouver Campus. The second phase of this study explored the impact of choice architecture; particularly visual nudges, on diverting this preference. Our findings suggest that a visual nudge employing a pre-commitment strategy  was the most effective in increasing self-reported use of tap water. This was followed by a visual nudge employing the ease and convenience technique, which pointed out the closest tap water facility. However, the small sample sizes and self-reported nature of the methodology renders these findings highly rudimentary and subject to critique.  (114 words)   Introduction Given the current climate crisis, discussions around sustainability have become more prevalent. In light of this, the UBC community is employing multiple interventions to monitor it’s environmental impact. One such initiative is the Tap Water Campaign launched by Campus and Community Planning, which aims to reduce the consumption of bottled beverages and increase the consumption of tap water across the Vancouver campus. In order to do so, they required an understanding of factors that influenced a preference for bottled water and an exploration of interventions that may negate these preferences. Hence, the present research aims to investigate and understand these factors, and explore interventions.  Through viva voce, there is a presumption that members of the UBC Vancouver community who come from other countries may not be aware that tap water is potable here since it may not be in their home countries. This is a stand alone presumption that the study also aimed to test. Past research on the preferred use of bottled water suggests that there are two main factors at play: lack of information and perceived differences in subjective experience (Anadu & Harding, 2000; Doria, 2006; Saylor et al, 2011). Lack of information involves beliefs that there are increased health benefits to drinking bottled water, that the safety and quality of  tap water is less that that of bottled water, and that recycling mitigates the environmental cost of bottled water. Differences in subjective experience focus on the perceived taste and aesthetic of bottled water. Consumer research around bottled beverages suggests that generational factors may be responsible for this misinformation (Slootweg & Rowson, 2018). Generation Z tend to be more sceptical of information given by large corporations and governments agencies, which may lead to the distrust in those sources when they claim that tap water is safe for consumption. Since UBC’s demographic data shows that the majority of the UBC population falls within this Generation Z bracket, thus this scepticism might be at play on campus (The Planning and Institutional Research Office).  This misinformation and difference in subjective experience may be mitigated through the implementation of choice architecture (Cass, 2014). Choice architecture works towards organising the context in which people make decisions, nudges specifically accomplish this without forbidding any options. Nudges present themselves in many forms that address different aspects of a choice. As such, the current study explore if visual nudging techniques would increase the consumption of tap water amongst the UBC Vancouver population. We hypothesised that UBC students would report an increase in the usage of tap-water fountains after witnessing the visual nudges. Methods Our methodology consisted of two online qualtrics surveys. The first was sent to determine demographic information about our participants, and barriers they reported around their own tap water usage. (Appendix A) Based on findings from the first survey, nudges relevant to reported barriers were sent in a second survey. (Appendix B & C) Each nudge was accompanied by a ten point likert scale where 0 represented no persuasion, and 10 represented immediate persuasion to drink tap water. Participants were also asked which factors they though were most responsible for other’s lack of tap water consumption and what suggestions they would have for interventions aiming to encourage tap water consumption. In order to avoid order effects, two versions of the second survey were created, both had a randomised order of presentation of the nudges and were sent in alternation to participants.  Results Through the first survey we were able to reach nineteen UBC students, the results of the survey are shown in Appendix D and E. 53% of our sample were international students, 52% of the entire sample reported coming from places with potable tap water and 94% of the sample said they drank tap water on a regular basis. Internationality did not seem to have an effect on tap water drinking (which mitigated the viva voce factor). When assessing the knowledge around tap water, only 47% of the participants knew that Vancouver tap water was filtered rain and snow melt. 42% thought that the source was glacial ice and 11% thought it was fresh water lakes. These findings suggest a clear lack of information around the water filtration process that. The implications of these findings are as discussed later in this report.  Results from the second survey show that by mean ratings of self reported persuasiveness the nudge using a pre-commitment strategy was rated most persuasive — rated at an average of 7. (Appendix F & G) To asses the validity of this effect we ran a one-way ANOVA test with each participant’s ratings for all the nudges presented, we found a p-value of 0.02. (Appendix H)  In response to the additional questions at the end of the second survey asking what factors participants thought contributed most to people not drinking tap water, 56% of the participants mentioned lack of trust in the cleanliness of the water and 22% mentioned misinformation about the condition of the tap water. (Appendix I) Discussion  These findings suggest that internationality does not influence the preference for tap water consumption. However, there is a clear gap in literacy around the filtration and distribution of tap water in the Vancouver area. This can be observed in both self-reports from the first survey, and in speculations for other’s behaviour in the second survey. These results suggest a greater focus on interventions that target the spread of more information regarding the water filtration process used on campus.  Since our participants reported an increase in tap water usage, our hypothesis was confirmed suggesting that the use of nudges may foster more sustainable behaviour. It was also observed that the best strategy for nudging sustainable behaviour is to use a pre-commitment strategy. However, it is important to note that due to the circumstances of a pandemic we were not able to conduct follow up research on the genuine frequency of tap water usage after actual implementation of the nudges and thus, our results remain speculative and our findings have low external validity. In addition, the higher rating for the pre-commitment strategy nudge may not have been due to the contents of the nudge itself but rather due to the more colourful graphics employed in this particular poster. (Appendix B) Participants also reported that they believes more colourful and visually appealing visual interventions may be much more effective.  Another mitigating factor we failed to address is that we do not possess any control over architecture i.e. we cannot pre-determine where a building puts its water fountains. Anecdotally, we have seen students avoiding water fountains which are situated near lavatories, thus even with the presence of  a nudge, the location may still hinder the usage of water fountains. Thus, a further study would be needed to nullify this effect by randomising the placement of nudges and observing the strength of nudges in multiple locations.  Regardless of these limitations, this study demonstrates that choice architecture, particularly nudging techniques may be a valid form of intervention when addressing behaviours that come from a gap in literacy as they can serve as a reminder and informative tool simultaneously.  Recommendations for our Client Through the effects observed in this study, and the feedback we received from our participants, we would suggest that the Tap Water Campaign re-asses the current nudges they have in place to cater to a pre-commitment strategy (encouraging students to commit to drinking more tap water by investing in a reusable bottle) or amplify the ease and convenience (direct students towards the nearest water fountains).  We also found that UBC students could benefit from more information about the water filtration process used on campus, and that this information is challenging to find and understand even when effort is put in. Thus it may be beneficial for our client to create an easily accessible page online that harbours all the information about tap water filtration and maintenance on campus, and provides further references to scientific data (to mitigate skepticism).  Although our study suggests that these strategies do not need to specifically be targeted towards international students, we suggest that there be a survey with a larger sample that replicates the first survey in this study. This will allow for a better assessment of the impact of internationality on tap water consumption on campus. If a correlation is found in further investigation, it may be beneficial to relay information about the safety of tap water consumption to students during Jump Start, where many international students gather other vital information to help them acclimate to Vancouver.  Finally, as voiced by many participants in the second survey (when asked for suggestions for interventions) there needs to be an emphasis on the clarity within any interventions pushed. The interventions present across campus currently seem to divert a viewer’s attention from the tap water to unrelated topics.    References Cass R. Sunstein, Nudging: A Very Short Guide, 37 J. Consumer Pol'y 583 (2014). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:16205305 Congui, L., & Moscati, ICONGIU, L., & MOSCATI, I. (2018). Message and environment: A framework for nudges and choice architecture. Behavioural Public Policy, , 1-17. doi:10.1017/bpp.2018.29 Doria, M. F. (2006). Bottled water versus tap water: Understanding consumers' preferences. Journal of Water and Health, 4(2), 271-276. doi:10.2166/wh.2006.0023 Edith C. Anadu & Anna K Harding; Risk Perception and Bottled Water Use. American Water Works Journal 1 November 2000; 82-92 doi; https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1551-8833.2000.tb09051.x Engelen, B. (2019). Ethical criteria for health-promoting nudges: A case-by-case analysis. The American Journal of Bioethics, 19(5), 48-59. doi:10.1080/15265161.2019.1588411 Saylor, A., Prokopy, L.S. & Amberg, S. What’s Wrong with the Tap? Examining Perceptions of Tap Water and Bottled Water at Purdue University. Environmental Management 48, 588–601 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-011-9692-6 Slootweg, E., & Rowson, B. (2018). My generation: A review of marketing strategies on different age groups. Research in Hospitality Management, 8(2), 85–92, https://doi.org/10.1080/22243534.2018.1553369 The Planning and Institutional Research Office. Demographics overview. Retrieved from http://pair.ubc.ca/student-demographics/demographics/    Appendices  Appendix A; First Survey https://ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_71lxEEVKmQSD7HT  Appendix B; Second Survey Version 1; https://ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3JbDOMotNAkf3MN Version 2: https://ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1YPSo3MMVZDEU4Z Appendix C; Nudges  Pre-commitment Strategy;            Ease and Convenience;   Use of Social Norm; Eliciting Implementation Intention;    Appendix D; First Survey Results Tap Water Demographics Survey Results  Are you an international or domestic student?  How long have you lived in Vancouver (in months)  Is tap water drinkable in your home country/region? Do you drink tap water in Vancouver?  Why? Where do you think Vancouver Tap Water Comes from? Participant 1 International 38 No Yes, always Because its easily accessible and free Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 2 International 30 Yes Yes, always  Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 3 Domestic 286 Yes Yes, always Habit Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 4 Domestic 228 No No, never Fear of getting waterborne diseases Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 5 International 40 No Yes, always NA Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 6 International 48 Yes Yes, always  Other; Freshwater Lakes Participant 7 International 30 No Yes, always  Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 8 Domestic 30 Yes Yes, always I love tap water Treated Glacial Ice/ Mountain Snow Participant 9 International 42 No Yes, always  Filtered Snow Melt & Rain Water Participant 10 Domestic 28 No Yes, always  Filtered Snow Melt & Rain Water Participant 11 International 30 No Yes, always  Filtered Snow Melt & Rain Water Participant 12 International 30 No Yes, always  Other Participant 13 Domestic 50 Yes Yes, always  Filtered Snow     Appendix E; First Survey Graph    Participant 17 International 54 Yes Yes, always  Filtered Snow Melt & Rain Water Participant 18 Domestic 10 Yes Yes, always  Filtered Snow Melt & Rain Water Participant 19 Domestic 36 Yes Yes, always  Filtered Snow Melt & Rain Water  Appendix F; Second Survey Results Self Reported Persuasiveness of Nudges (1-10)  Fresh water this way  Tell us what you think  You bring the bottle, we’ve got the water Most Students bring their own bottle  Do you have any suggestions for posters to encourage people to drink more tap water? In your opinio  what factors contribute mo   people not drinking tap water? Participant 1  8 7 7 3 Maybe something about the GHG emissions associated with plastic water bottles?  Accessibility; bott  water is more convenient. You d  have to remember  bring your own w  bottle, and you can  recycle the bottle a  you're done with i   re-usable bottle is  more thing to keep  of, and it needs to  washed. Participant 2 8 9 10 7 no health issues and c  of tap water Participant 3 3 1 6 8 Using the fact that people are doing it encourages more to fit into a social norm laziness, societal no  Participant 4 7 6 8 8 more info on where fountains are idk Participant 5 7 5 7 6 Perhaps, like one of the examples, more signage about where the tap water can be found  laziness? Participant 6 10 8 10 10 They dont know that tap water in Metro Vancouver is drinkable straight from the tap and super clean Just like in your example posters: colourful, clear, concise, easy to re  messages may encourage people  drink tap water. A   as maybe a short "  fact" about the cle   water in Metro Vancouver.  Participant 7 7 9 4 7 cleanliness and quality of water Awareness that In Fac   clean and is suitable f  drinking  Participant 8 2 2 8 2 misunderstandings on it being not good for their health less text more visu     Participant 12 8 8 8 7 the pipe that sends the water to people has some erosion Show how scare drinkable water for us actually is Participant 13 7 1 8 2 International experience may prevent them from drinking tap water because in their home country it may not be encouraged Making individuals feel guilt about there use of plastic is a big idea. Also I know it sounds stupid but a cute caricature and catchy slogan always helps  Participant 14 6 7 7 8 Right now, Fear of coronavirus and germs, lack of proper sanitation and cleaning of water fountains showing impact on environment and how much cheaper it is for the individual Participant 15 1 4 4 2 Temperature of the water glacier pictures Participant 16 8 7 8 6 cleanliness source of the water Participant 17 7 7 6 5 A lot of people think that tap water isnt clean enough to drink on its own  I think it would good to have posters that shows real statistics and benefits of drinking tap water from how clean it is, how environmentally it is, etc Participant 18 8 2 6 4 Graphics and encouragement to drink water  Do not generalise that all UBC students drink tap water, rather encourage than assume.  Participant 19 8 8 7 6 water being dirty from pipes it flows from no  Participant 20 4 2 6 4 People believing there are harmful minerals in the water fact based posters with information  Participant 21 4 1 4 5 not having a water bottle with them  little words and little colours Participant 22 4 1 5 6 laziness no   Appendix G; Second Survey Result Graphs   Appendix H; Second Survey ANOVA test   Appendix I; Second Survey Contributing Factors Graph 


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