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The flavour of the month: Paper-saving.


In the paper “Curbing Paper Wastage Using Flavoured Feedback,” researcher Richard Medland introduces an experiment in a certain tailoring of feedback with the goal of reducing paper wastage in a university setting. The main objective of the project is to better understand the motivation of staff in terms of more sustainable printing practices, and in this vein the researcher developed and deployed software that provided targeted feedback meant to guide users towards a reduction of paper use. In order to address potentially divergent motivations to act in a more sustainable fashion, this information was available in three different “flavours”: eco-metrics, financial/traditional statistics, and comparison-based statistics.

Before getting the design part, Medland first interviewed staff in order to get to the root of paper waste at an administrative building at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). While surely generalizable, the software really was going to be designed with this particular locality in mind.

The software prototype was developed in order to satisfy three main functional requirements: 1) to collect and store print log data; 2) to email staff feedback using real-time generated graphics, including details of one’s printing activities (See image above); and 3) to generate exportable reports and metrics, which summarized print consumption data. Given the findings of the initial interview, the metrics presented in the email provided a different interpretation of the same data. Some people felt that they would not be moved by eco-metrics, but would likely be compelled by comparative or financial measures. While not addressed in the paper, which was presenting this project as a work in progress, it would be interesting to see if people behaved accordingly – that is – that those would believed that they would be motivated by a particular measure and not another acted in accordance to those beliefs.

The above image suggests that in addition to the eco-metrics, comparative data was also provided to the end user, complete with both descriptive and injunction norms. This is two of the three “flavours” previously mentioned. What motivates someone to act in this scenario might then be tangled up in a few variables. It would also be nice to know how much attention was given to the emails (i.e. what % were opened and read? Did this change over time?) and whether this tool help to contribute to changes in consumption habits. I will update this post once I’m able to find a follow-up on this paper.


Medland, Richard C. (2010) Curbing paper wastage using flavoured feedback. In: Proceedings of OZCHI 2010 : Design – Interaction – Participation, 22 – 26 November 2010, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland.
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