Get rid of the eco-button! Design interventions to steer sustainable use of washing machines

Mirjam Visser*, Jan Schoormans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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To reduce energy consumption of households, many appliances contain eco-settings, which when used, reduce energy consumption. However, the effectivity of the eco-settings in reducing energy consumption is hardly tested. Other design for sustainable behaviour strategies like coercion and feedback might be more effective. To test the effectivity of these three design for sustainable behaviour strategies in reducing the energy consumption of washing machines a 2 × 2 factorial design experiment is conducted. A total of 779 European washing machine users were asked to set washing machine controls for three laundry baskets on one of four control panels. The results showed that eco-settings of the washing machines were used for only 15% of the laundry cycles. Respondents presented with coercion or feedback controls consumed 15% less energy compared to those who were allowed to decide whether to use eco-settings. Few people understood the relation of water temperature and the duration of washing machine programs on energy consumption. Feedback can support their decision processes and prevent unintentional and unsustainable settings. Our research shows that energy efficient washing machines are not necessarily leading to energy reductions because eco-settings are only used in a minority of cases. In this survey, only 6% of the potential 44% savings was realised. The results suggest it would be more effective to always use energy efficient settings, preferably together with feedback and scripting of program menus that solicit the use of short cold cycles. For energy efficiency to be effective, a product must be designed for sustainable behaviour of the user./

Original languageEnglish
Article number100096
Number of pages10
JournalCleaner and Responsible Consumption
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Behavioural interventions
  • Consumer research
  • Design for sustainable behaviour
  • Energy efficiency
  • Nudge
  • Sustainable consumption


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