Composting food waste could propel people to accept other earth-friendly options. According to a recent study led by Nicole Sintov, assistant professor at Ohio State University, when a city in California adopted a composting scheme to keep food scraps out of its landfill, the residents started paying more attention to other eco-friendly behaviors such as taking shorter showers. Sintov, formerly of the University of Southern California, disclosed that in this research, a pro-environment change seemed to lead to more benefits which could be important to know as city officials consider conservation projects.
The latest evaluation was part of a larger investigation to review the success of the composting program. The study had 284 participating residents in Costa Mesa, California that started offering residents curbside waste pickup and recycling in 2015. No curbside recycling existed prior to the program.
The team was interested in the scientific concept termed "spillover" in which a certain behavior motivates another. However, the idea works both ways and can yield both positive and negative results. The survey asked subjects three food waste prevention behaviors. The researchers also used about seven energy and water waste prevention activities, such as unplugging electronics when they are not in use and taking shorter baths. The main idea was to test whether investing in composting bins, trucks, and other facilities could possibly lead to other environment-friendly behaviors.
- When the findings were cross-examined with those at the onset of composting, those who embraced composting food scraps also made more efforts in energy and water conservation than those who did otherwise.
- The team surprisingly found that none of the three food conservation practices differ much among residents who embraced composting as against those who did not. Sintov suggested that this could be because many residents were already engaging in food conservation and that there was little or no room for improvement.
- There was no noticeable negative spillover which would have been seen if participants had started to be less careful with resources after the launching of the curbside waste recycling program.
- Apart from showing how composting could prompt other conservation efforts, the team also discovered a possible psychological reason for this. Sintov pointed out that the team was aware of human desire for consistency in actions, feelings, and thoughts, which could be responsible for the behavior.
Other Waste Management Behaviors
The team's deep dive into the scientific links between composting and its spillover effects unearthed an important fact. They found that this happened because it was cognitively accessible in their minds, and the thought about waste conservation seemed to prompt other waste management behaviors.
The study was conducted in a relatively rich, well-educated neighborhood, and further research would be needed to ascertain if the findings could be extended to other populations. Sintov nevertheless opined that the investigation supported the argument that these civic conservation projects might have multiple benefits, some obvious and others not. The study underscores the significance of conceding the fact that government policies and other changes can trigger unexpected behaviors in the population. The research is so relevant to policymakers.
She indicated that this program might be a nice way of testing conservation spillover because composting could be such a practically oriented and unappealing endeavor. The study is also among the first, as it is, to investigate environmental spillover in a social setting outside of an academic environment. Sintov concluded that it would be pretty cool if we could determine how to initiate changes that would ultimately stimulate positive spillover among the people.
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Serene Hitchcock is a professional freelance writer, blogger and social media strategist from San Diego, California. She has been writing for several years in many forms and facets and is interested in arts, health, self-improvement, current events and the world we live in.