Urban Environmental Performance and Individual Behaviour: A Comparison between Freiburg and Stavanger
Supervisors: Dr Raid Hanna, Dr Robert Proctor
In the doctoral research the level of environmental performance of two medium sized European cities (Freiburg and Stavanger) is objectively examined, with the help of institutional provision and individual behaviour. The underlying assumption is that, in addition to more sustainable provision, individual behaviour needs to change in order to make urban sustainability possible. Further, the impact of social and cultural factors on individual behaviour is investigated.
Since the field of urban design is in need of empirical assessment methods for urban sustainability, this study devises an evaluation system (EPES), which empirically defines the environmental performance of Freiburg and Stavanger with the help of 32 indicators, both in terms of provision and behaviour. Here, Freiburg serves as a European role model for environmentalism, while Stavanger as oil capital of Norway represents the other extreme of the socio-cultural spectrum. The indicator data are collected by means of questionnaires, local literature and statistics, maps and interviews with city officials.
As of now, it is unclear what determines individual behaviour, and with it the successful implementation of urban sustainability. Therefore the impact of relevant factors for individual behaviour is explored. Here, personal demographic attributes (such as income, household size, education, age) and attitudes are correlated to individual behaviour with the help of statistical correlation analyses.
The investigation of environmental performance reveals that Freiburg overall performs better than Stavanger, both in terms of provision of infrastructure and services, and individual and collective behaviour.
Generally, demographic data are found to have a stronger influence on individual behaviour than attitudes. This is particularly true for income, but also larger household sizes and higher age is often associated with less sustainable behaviour. The results for attitudes, on the other hand, are less conclusive, since transport and dwelling priorities show most correlations in Freiburg, while the will to change behaviour does so in Stavanger. In addition it seems that the detected correlations between attitudes and behaviour are indirectly influenced by demographics.
Overall the findings suggest that Freiburg’s success and the population’s sustainable choices might be partly attributed to a positive socio-cultural environment. Thus, for cities to become more sustainable, individual behaviour and social and cultural conditions need to change. Therefore a more holistic approach to urban sustainability and its realisation than currently practised in urban design is advocated.