Is “meter effect” important for promoting green practices?
HSE ISSEK researchers Valentina Polyakova and Elena Chernovich are discussing the interesting issue: to what extent does installation of meters encourage Russian citizens to adopt a “green” way of life? This is based on the results of a survey of “green” practices in Russia conducted in the framework of HSE monitoring of innovative behaviour of the population.
The issue of interdependency between material objects and social relations is among the central ones in S&T research. On the one hand, technology includes certain codes which can affect human behaviour (e.g. make a person keep track of their water consumption after a water meter is installed). On the other hand, individuals are inclined to disregard certain behavioural models “imposed” upon them by modern technology and devices. Analysing the “green” practices, the researchers tried to measure this effect. They selected the case of everyday life resource-saving by two groups of people: those who do and do not have water meters installed at home. It turned out that in the first group, the share of those who save resources at home was higher than in the second one (28% compared with 18%; 24% average for the sample) – a statistically significant difference.
Detailed analysis of households with installed water meters indicates a more complex water, electricity, and other resources consumption model – a result of interaction between values, social tenets, individual habits, material objects present in the people’s environment (e.g. consumer appliances), and information flows. In particular, senior people and members of low-income groups on the whole demonstrate a more frugal attitude towards consumption of water, electricity, or gas at home, regardless of whether they have meters installed or not. Probably these groups extrapolate their overall inclination to save on all spheres of life. Also, the careful approach to consuming natural resources at home frequently is combined with responsible attitude to the environment. A vast majority of the respondents (73%) who opt for resource-saving strategies also never leave litter in the street, in parks, or forests.
Thus one should hardly expect that enforced installation of meters, without adequate promotion of “green” attitude to consumption of natural resources, would provide a significant incentive to closing the tap while brushing teeth, or switching off the lights during daytime. This is especially true for Russians under 35 years old.