Material Values, Goals, and Water Use: Results from a Campus Residence Hall Survey

Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


The social sciences, psychology in particular, offer a growing body of research to address sustainability issues. We specifically turn to the psychological literature on values and goals to predict eco-friendly behavior. Material values, such as the desire to gain happiness from purchasing products, predict consumption behavior (Richins and Dawsons in J Consum Res 19(3):303–316, 1992). We test whether material values predict water use, and whether the relationship will be mediated through the competing goals to conserve resources and maintain personal comfort. Specifically, we hypothesize that people will use more natural resources when the goal for personal comfort outweighs the goal to conserve resources (Gaspar in Sustainability 5(7):2960–2975, 2013). 269 residence hall students completed an online survey that included the Material Values Scale, a conservation goal item, and a personal comfort goal item. Students also reported water use, including shower time and dish washing habits. As predicted, material values, the conservation goal, and the comfort goal independently predicted water use. However, only the personal comfort goal explained the relation between material values and water use. To increase the likelihood of behavior change, campus water conservation campaigns should try to activate the goal to conserve resources, like reminding students to shorten showers, while dissuading material values, possibly by emphasizing the value of experience over consumption.


Ecopsychology Water conservation Campus sustainability Residence halls 



We thank Loyola University Chicago’s The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Illinois Sustainable Technology Center for funding our research. We also thank the psychology research assistants in the Social Justice and Intergroup Relations lab, the Institute for Environmental Sustainability water interns, and the Loyola University Chicago Residence Life staff for their help with advertising the study and ensuring students were compensated for their participation. A special thanks to Sr. Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM, for helping with materials for our project.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental SustainabilityLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

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