Investigating Radical High-Involvement Eco-Innovations: The Case of Household Biogas in the U.S.

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Virginia Tech


There is an emerging market of radical eco-innovations that require high involvement from the U.S. consumer for successful routinization. Yet, there exists a gap in knowledge that guides the dissemination of such innovations for related stakeholders. Among these innovations is the household digester (HD), which is marketed as an innovation capable of generating biogas and fertilizer through processing organic waste at its point-of-source (POS). The HD may surpass other high-involvement eco-innovations in respect to levels of involvement necessary for consumer routinization and sustained operation. However, previously unexplored factors within the contemporary U.S. landscape have spurred recent growth in HD adoption. This dissertation took a three-manuscript approach in the investigation of factors that influence the adoption and diffusion of HD in the U.S.

The first of three studies tested a literature-based conceptual model framed within the multi-level perspective (MLP) to identify barriers and drivers of HD adoption. Qualitative data from expert interviews and social media posts inform the production of a taxonomy of complexities that depict the current state of HD in the U.S. Findings indicate that HD marketing during the Covid pandemic brought forth new adopter populations seeking resilience due to infrastructure distrust.

The second study investigated motivations for HD adoption through operationalizing constructs from psychology literature and diffusion of innovation theory (DOI). Through in-depth interviews with adopters, the factors of relative advantage, compatibility, and cost were found to outweigh pro-environmental behavior (PEB) in adoption decisions. Furthermore, high-involvement was not found to influence adoption decisions.

The final study employed a collective case study approach that explored paths to HD routinization among ten adopters. Results highlight the ability of adopters to overcome technical challenges through reinventions necessary for contextual adaptations. This dissertation contributes insights into the adoption and diffusion of radical high-involvement eco-innovations, offering implications for policy, practice, and future research in emerging innovations interacting within socio-technical transitions.



household digester, food waste, radical high-involvement eco-innovations, socio-technical transitions, routinization