Effects of a behaviour change intervention for Girl Scouts on child and parent energy-saving behaviours


Energy education programmes for children are hypothesized to have great potential to save energy. Such interventions are often assumed to impact child and family behaviours. Here, using a cluster-randomized controlled trial with 30 Girl Scout troops in Northern California, we assess the efficacy of two social cognitive theory-based interventions focused on residential and food-and-transportation energy-related behaviours of Girl Scouts and their families. We show that Girl Scouts and parents in troops randomly assigned to the residential energy intervention significantly increased their self-reported residential energy-saving behaviours immediately following the intervention and after more than seven months of follow-up, compared with controls. Girl Scouts in troops randomly assigned to the food-and-transportation energy intervention significantly increased their self-reported food-and-transportation energy-saving behaviours immediately following the intervention, compared with controls, but not at follow-up. The results demonstrate that theory-based, child-focused energy interventions have the potential to increase energy-saving behaviours among both children and their parents.

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Figure 1: Overall outcome for residential energy intervention with Girl Scouts and parents at post-test and follow-up.
Figure 2: Overall outcome for food-and-transportation energy intervention with Girl Scouts and parents at post-test and follow-up.


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We thank our data collectors—especially S. Karp, K. Khalil and K. O’Connor—as well as those who helped with data analysis and management—particularly S. Bryson, M. Fujimoto, F. Haydel, A. Mitani and C. Zanocco—and logistics and implementation—principally S. McCarthy and C. Wantanabe. We are grateful to the Girl Scouts of Northern California for their participation, without which this research would not have been possible. In particular, we appreciated the opportunity to work closely with the Girl Scouts and leaders of the participating troops, as well as K. Miller and J. Fahy. Funding for this work was provided by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e) Program (Grant no. DE-AR0000018), California Energy Commission (Grant no. PIR-10-054), the Child Health Research Institute at Stanford University, and Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University. REDCap is supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health (Grant no. UL1 RR025744). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of any funders.

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N.M.A., K.C.A. and T.N.R. secured project funding. H.B., N.M.A., J.F., K.C.A. and T.N.R. designed the study and associated interventions. H.B. recruited participants and oversaw implementation of the interventions and data collection. H.B., J.F., M.D. and T.N.R. analysed the data. H.B. and J.F. drafted the manuscript; N.M.A., K.C.A., M.D. and T.N.R. edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hilary Boudet.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 1–7, Supplementary Notes 1–4, Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary References. (PDF 631 kb)

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Boudet, H., Ardoin, N., Flora, J. et al. Effects of a behaviour change intervention for Girl Scouts on child and parent energy-saving behaviours. Nat Energy 1, 16091 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2016.91

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