A Behavior-Based Sustainability Project at Lake Tahoe


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Continuing in the trend of our recent sustainability-related article “Applied Behavior Analysis Reduces Electricity Use in Northern Ireland,” we report here on another sustainability project from the journal Behavior and Social Issues.  
Leeming, Hansen, Alavosius, and Reimer (2013) present a case study of Embassy Suites at Lake Tahoe and their transition to behavior-based programs to encourage sustainable practices.  A critical target of intervention in organizations is that of leader decision making.  If one can influence the leaders of an organization, then system-wide policy changes can be implemented.  Because an organization has to minimize costs in order to survive, leaders are likely to agree to new initiatives only if one can demonstrate the potential to cut costs and improve profits.  

Many changes discussed in the article related to efficiency behaviors, or “one-time behaviors that modify current environmental impact typically through the adoption of technologies that produce benefits through their continued use” (p. 27).  Many include energy management systems with feedback systems designed to respond to occupant’s behavior.  However, the authors note that automated systems can only do so much.  Non-technological initiatives involved setting up prompts to distinguish among recyclable vs. waste material, and training and materials for composting food waste.

To assess the impact of these and many other changes discussed in the article, teams of observers from the University of Nevada, Reno frequently visited the hotel to conduct organization-wide assessments.  To read about what they found, and for more details on the project, read the freely available article at the BSI site here.

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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