Some surprises on the way to setting up the first experiment
So finally I had a design figured out for the first experiment. Next thing was to come up with a reusable bag that has a good chance to be accepted, liked and used by the people in Indonesia. The bag is what they call “infrastructure” in the scientific literature on pro-environmental behavior change. You may say it is the hardware. Although the focus of our research is to test different kinds of software, the hardware is essential. If you want people to reduce using plastic bags they need an alternative to carry their shopping goods. So Dwi from Eco-Bali helped me to get some feedback from the local shoppers, what bag material do they like, what color works best, what size?
From an ecological point of view a canvas or cotton bag is a great alternative. However, I had to learn, maybe too great of an alternative. Most of the people we asked, said that they liked the cotton bags very much, but no way were they going to use them for doing their daily shopping. Cotton bags were much too nice. Also they get dirty easily.
Not happy about changing the fabric to a partially plastic material, it seemed to be the only reasonable thing to do. It works better for keeping water and dirt away and the quality allows the bag to be used at least as often as a cotton bag. A partially plastic bag – reused for many times – will at the end have a more beneficial impact on the environment than a cotton bag used only once in a while for fancy occasions.
Finally having a better informed idea about which bags people are likely to use instead of plastic bags, I was ready to get them done. Well almost, first I had to do another quick market assessment to rule out the chances of being ripped off. Getting to 70% below the highest price offered I felt I was getting to a place offering a fair deal.
Time for starting the first experiment was getting closer. Björn, co-supervisor of my PhD-project, was about to arrive. Most preparations for the experiment kick-off were on schedule. One more thing was finding the right research location. For methodological reasons I was looking for an area with a ratio of many households/few shops. That way I would be able observe shopping bag choice of many people at only a few shops, where they all gathered. Counting households in the little streets, counting shops, and counting the days until Björn was going to arrive.