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ERINN SAVAGE – Performance
Tomorrow 15:00 GMT

Instilling pro-environmental behaviours among citizens to create sustainable neighbourhoods.

Can design use these biases to nudge people ? Many scientist and psychologists are now seeing the importance of understanding behaviour and nudging towards climate action. Through the research process it became evident that I did not intend to focus on one specific behaviour , as sustainability was a journey with one success action resulting us to take the next action which was uncovered through various interviews.


The site I chose was White City Estate which is a ward in the Hammersmith and Fulham borough here in London. It has one of the most diverse neighbourhoods with people coming from various class structures with 52 percent of the people here living in social housing. Unfortunately it is also identified as one of the most deprived and least affluent area in the borough.

Why I chose a social housing estate?

It's important for us to get diverse voices heard in these conversations. A saying from the environmentalist Sunita Narain inspired this thought with a provoking question - Is it accessible, is it inclusive, is it diverse, is it reciprocal? This thinking stayed with me throughout my design process. I was also inspired by Bristol taking the same course of action during Lockdown to make environmental sustainability more inclusive to people from all class structures. With this in mind and initial desk research, my design challenge moulded to questions around design interventions instilling pro environmental behaviours among individuals

Various Research methods used

A brief summary of the engagement tools I used to understand behaviours of those living in White City are : 1. Using optimism as a nudge to spark conversations followed by printed questionnaires to fulfil social distancing rules. 2. Tags on a gate tool to understand values and wants of residents. 3. I then sent out 2 sets of digital questionnaires via various platforms to understand residents their behaviour and interaction with space and the term sustainability. This was also to understand their sustainability journey and the barriers a few heroes faced on their paths. Alongside this, I held a workshop, few other one on one interviews via whatsapp, or face to face and a walking tour.

Testing the role of optimism as an engagement tool

One of the engagement tools that worked best with residents to talk about sustainability was the optimism nudge card I designed. Working as a volunteer distributing food during COVID allowed me to have conversations with people from within the community. However, this was a very delicate moment where people cued waiting for food after receiving a token. The food distribution charities would save food that would otherwise go into landfill from various vendors and measured success based on how much food wastage they saved. Using this same method of celebration and optimism, I designed a tool to play ‘the role of optimism’ and change otherwise uncomfortable moments in moments of deep reflection. As the lockdown started easing I used this tool at charity sales leading to them requesting more for ongoing and future rail sales.

Spotting interactive zones with potential for design interventions

I then mapped out the city based on the walking tour and advice I received from residents, picking out areas with the most traffic flow and spaces that had potential and screamed for intervention ( this was also done to play with our contextual biases ) .

Turning Point

With all of the information I gathered from nearly 30 to 40 participants at different point of time including now I understood the complexity of communities and how different knots had to be untied at a time. This also led me to identify the different types of stakeholders at play.

Stakeholder Interviews - Environmental Enthusiasts

Changes in our context can influence or activate our biases and heuristics by nudging people to favour more sustainable outcomes (Jensen & Hovgaard, 2020). Based on the variation of data collected from the residents, I identified emerging behaviours demonstrated by the residents. As you can see in this slide I identified various stakeholders who I saw as complete heroes and environmental enthusiasts who would be the facilitators of these 3 design ideas. Their skills would increase a positive feedback loop and feed into the gardening space as a conduit for people to exchange views, perspectives and ideas. This would inturn act as social norms and instil values of pro-environmentalism

Using Behavioural Science

Based on research, observations and further analysing these behaviours with psychologists, I created a diagram to visually see the behaviours and motivators I experimented with through my design. INSIGHT STATEMENTS from Residents : TRUST : People had a greater level of trust towards others when they were introduced by someone from their cultural, religious or other friend circles. ­­ SENSE OF OWNERSHIP: One of the things people strongly feel about their immediate environment is the lack of input, knowledge and agency they have towards the space resulting in a lack of empathy. IMPORTANCE OF SPACE: When asked about experiences in White City back in the day, people’s stories aligned with interactive spaces more than people. Environmental structures seemed to be more vivid showing the importance between space and people.


Using the behaviours at play and what was required to reverse negative into positive behaviours inspired this proposal. The final design has 3 services that interplay and depend on each other. These were inspired and created based on the various forms of activating specific postibe behaviours as seen in previous slide. Using contextual biases and a creation of social norms within the community plays a significant but invisible role in all the three components. As you can see the 3 services aim to help the identified stakeholder types to interact with eachother in order to impart pro-environmental behaviours.


Under the umbrella of 'White City cares', the three different services will work together. Using environmental settings as a space to be inspired by people and nature, along with digital platforms to have a wider audience.

PART 1A: Micro-allotments

Each small square plot will be allotted to tenants in surrounding blocks during peak yield months for a maximum of 1 year. These green spaces that are otherwise only used by dog-owners have the potential to becoming spaces for people to connect with others in their neighbourhood and learn about the processes of how the ecosystem works with an indicator we all connect with - food and plants. Using methods of rainwater harvesting and composting within the space also creates an awareness for these natural resources. Through growing, people then understand the different parts of the ecosystem vital to our everyday living.

PART 1B : Community-led workshops

Through research it became evident that there were a few experts in the field and a few environmental enthusiasts. The community already had so much to learn from each other. The workshop would be a form to get people from various cultural backgrounds and blocks connecting through shared interests and exchanging forms of knowledge. This also increases self-efficacy among individuals, highlighting their strengths and value within the community.

PART 2 : Open source nudge kit

This nudge kit was inspired by the request from charities for the optimism engagement tool. This was further complemented with nudges to create empathy to spaces and also increasing self-efficacy.

PART 2: Open source nudge kit

PART 3; Outreach

Third is outreach which uses the insight of trust - seeing peoples stories and journey on the 'White City stories' instagram and facebook page would further empower citizens to do more. This builds empathy through stories and narratives further leading to instilling social norms of pro-environmentalism.

What and How ?

Using a systems thinking approach, ‘White City cares’ carefully threads on the idea of leading sustainable lifestyles through simple nudges and direct forms of communication as seen in the image above. The insights gained (outer circle) from interviews and engagement act as tools that help facilitate and motivate the different services at play.


The feedback was overwhelming with residents looking for it to become a reality through community effort. Some really loved the idea of the empathy nudge tests: Seeing the tree on their street been given a name made them happy and proud. They appreciated that the language of sustainability under ‘White city cares' was accessible and stressed on the importance of outreach through platforms other than social media. Micro allotment ideas were well received with many saying that the space would finally be theirs and not just for the dogs. Many residents stressed on the need for ways to get their kids and young adults involved and using the space to learn from as they will be the future. As a next step, the idea would be around getting the community participating in any infrastructure changes implemented by the council.