Completed project: Promoting energy-sufficient behaviour in cities

The image shows a rowing boat.

The project looks at the potential and challenges of a strategy as part of which social groups act as agents for energy-saving initiatives.

Cities are key actors with regard to the energy transition in Switzerland. Many cities carry out interventions to promote changes in behaviour. However, it is a challenge to reach people who are not environmentally conscious. One strategy for reaching the wider public is to collaborate with formal social groups (e.g. sports clubs). Such groups offer opportunities for building more trustful relationships as well as an arena for direct experience and social learning in which social norms can be shaped.

The developing, implementing and evaluating interventions were done in close collaboration with the Swiss cities of Winterthur, Baden and Zug. Furthermore, the added value of such research-city collaboration was explored.

Three interventions were carried out in the domains of mobility and hot water use. It was found that sports clubs are effective multipliers of a programme promoting bike instead of car use for going to sports training sessions. Clubs were able to motivate people who would not have participated if they had been approached individually. This led to a reduction in the use of cars by people travelling to training facilities. The evaluation of an e-bike trial for car owners revealed the importance of social processes: the more positive feedback participants got, the stronger was their intention to drive less. Moreover, trying out an e-bike led to a reduction in situations spontaneously associated with car use even one year after the trial. A related effect was found for showering: experiencing a low-flow showerhead in a public swimming pool had a positive effect on attitudes towards such showerheads and corresponding purchase decisions.

At the process level, workshops with researchers and practitioners helped in identifying the different types of success factors that are necessary for effective research-city collaboration.