For the past forty years, social science researchers have studied how to encourage pro-environmental behaviors such as the adoption of recycling programs, water conservation strategies, and purchase of sustainable products. This article presents a synthesis of these research findings as they relate to the design of sustainable products and technologies. Research from environmental psychology, consumer studies, economics, decision sciences, public policy, and behavioral psychology are organized into cognitive concepts that are crucial to the successful purchase and use of sustainable products. The cognitive concepts reviewed are: responsibility, complex decision-making skills, decision heuristics, the altruism-sacrifice link, trust, cognitive dissonance/guilt, and motivation. Product examples are provided to highlight the role of these cognitive concepts in sustainable design. Design recommendations and relevant design methods are discussed. The recommendations require dynamic and on-going coordination between designers, manufacturers, marketers, and government policy-makers to achieve positive changes in individuals’ behaviors. The success of sustainable products depends on the success of this coordination.

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