Unprecedented levels of global bottled water consumption present a major challenge for the environment and water conservation initiatives. Educational institutions are in a unique position to promote conservation behavior by signaling pro-environmental norms. To decrease disposable bottled water consumption on campus, Princeton University instituted an innovative “Drink Local” program in 2009. The program provides reusable water bottles to all incoming students and we analyze the program’s impact here by drawing on behavioral and social influence research. In particular, we hypothesized that by signaling that the desired “prototypical” behavior of Princeton students should be “sustainable,” students would be less likely to consume bottled water on one hand, and more likely to offer normative support for a campus bottled water ban on the other. Results from a quasi-experiment involving over 1,300 students confirm our hypotheses; students who received the reusable Drink Local bottles upon arrival to Princeton are significantly less likely to drink disposable bottled water and more likely to support a campus-wide bottled water ban. These results are promising for educational institutions who wish to promote water conservation behavior on campus and beyond.
Environmental Practice 18: 116–122 (2016)