Testing the Effectiveness of Supermarket-Based Environmental Shopping Campaigns in Changing Consumer Behavior in New York City

Clarke, Marjorie J. (Apr 2000). Testing the effectiveness of supermarket-based environmental shopping campaigns in changing consumer behavior in New York City. . Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: the Sciences & Engineering., 60, 9B, p. 4491.

To advance waste prevention research, this study tested two environmental shopping educational campaigns in Manhattan supermarkets to impart information and motivation to shoppers, expecting that the knowledge gained would engender new, environmental shopping habits. The effectiveness of the campaigns was evaluated using baseline and follow-up surveys of hundreds of the same shoppers at two stores, before and after receiving two levels of educational treatment (brochures, signs, and video). Answers to survey questions were analyzed using a range of statistical techniques including tabulations, cross-tabulations, mean differences between pairs, and path analysis. Central objectives were to evaluate the campaigns' effectiveness in changing shopping behaviors, to compare the results of the campaigns to one another, and to examine the impact made by each of the educational devices. Features differentiating the campaigns employed here from previously tried approaches were their implementation in small, crowded, ultra-urban supermarkets, sale of diaper service in the stores, and showing of videos. The survey data provided insight into what extent environmental awareness, attitudes, and behaviors of shoppers changed after exposure to environmental shopping campaigns. Shoppers at both stores increased purchases of refills and concentrates (10 to 20%), the already frequent recycling of cans and bottles increased slightly (=5%), and bringing deposit containers back increased (=15%). However, other desired environmental shopping behaviors decreased; purchasing of recyclable packaging decreased roughly 12%, and no one signed up for diaper service. Path analyses showed that shoppers' environmental behavior was influenced only slightly by the amount of environmental knowledge they possessed, and that their behavior was influenced considerably more by their environmental attitudes and unknown factors outside the campaign. The limited success in changing behavior, and the difficulties of implementation in an urban environment, lead to recommendations to improve store-based educational campaigns, supplemented with legislation and incentives encouraging manufacturers and retailers to market more environmentally-friendly packaging and products. Compared with recycling, waste prevention represents a new set of behavior patterns for most people. Environmental shopping programs should deploy more types of educational devices and approaches varying over extended periods, in an intensive manner, with cooperation of host stores, and augmented by media advertising campaigns.

Find this article online
Site Courtesy of
McKenzie-Mohr & Associates

Expertise in Community-Based Social Marketing