The National Science Foundation is spending roughly $3 million on a study that seeks to make Americans consume less food, water, and energy to become more like the Netherlands.
Researchers at Michigan Technological University are searching for ways to "change people's behavior" out of fear of global warming. The study, which was awarded during the final year of the Obama administration, is using "interactive role-playing activities" to teach families how to consume less.
"Changing people's behavior may be the hardest part of mitigating climate change," the university said when announcing the grant. "But a research team led by Michigan Technological University wants to find a way to do just that."
The study is developing a "Household Metabolism Tracker" that can monitor how much energy and water Americans consume.
"Changes in household-level actions in the U.S. have the potential to reduce rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change by reducing consumption of food, energy and water (FEW)," according to the grant for the study. "This project will identify potential interventions for reducing household FEW consumption, test options in participating households in two communities, and collect data to develop new environmental impact models."
The project claims the research will "increase the well-being of individuals at the household level" by encouraging Americans to eat less and use less electricity, while also reducing "climate-related risks" and increasing "economic competitiveness."
The study's ultimate goal is to work with other researchers in the Netherlands to find ways to emulate the progressive European country's energy use.
"The project will recruit, train, and graduate more than 20 students and early-career scientists from underrepresented groups," the grant states. "Students will be eligible to participate in exchanges to conduct interdisciplinary research with collaborators in the Netherlands, a highly industrialized nation that uses 20 [percent] less energy and water per person than the U.S."
The project began in October 2016, and research will continue through September 2020. The university has received $2,983,358 for the study.
David Watkins, the lead researcher on the project and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Tech, said the focus of the study is "targeted conservation."
"We're trying to understand what types of consumption have the biggest impacts," he said.
The project will examine "how households are currently consuming food, energy and water," in order to "implement experimental changes in their daily FEW consumption habits."
"To monitor the impacts of these changes, Charles Wallace, associate professor of computer science at Michigan Tech, is developing a user-friendly software system, currently referred to as the Household Metabolism Tracker," the university said. "This tool will track consumption levels and link to an impact database, providing feedback to household residents on the rather complex impacts of their resource use."