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How green nudges can contribute saving the planet

Adopting a responsible attitude, both individually and collectively, is not easy: although most of us have good intentions (64% of people in 50 countries believe that climate change is a global emergency), we don't necessarily take action.

So why don't we act ? The truth is that human beings are not rational who always act in their best interests. A new discipline, behavioural economics, has demonstrated that our decisions are more influenced by the context, our emotions and the judgment of others than by our rational mind.

The Nudge approach lies on this observation. A Nudge is a cheap and easy-to-implement lever to encourage people to tend to a certain behavior, without interfering with their free will. Nudge doesn’t impose rules, punish or make you feel guilty but it encourages you to take better decisions!

The most famous example of nudge : The fly in men’s toilet

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, one of Europe's busiest air hubs, carved flies into the urinals of its men's toilets in the 1990s. This 'target' instinctively influenced men to adjust their aim, reducing significantly splashing. It was appreciated by both users and the airport cleaning management, which maintenance costs decreased by 80%!

Green nudge

What about using the nudge approach to encourage people to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviour ? Many inspiring examples of green nudges exist.

These nudges would either propose the most environmentally friendly option by default...

  • Activate the 2-sided printing option by default,

  • Automatically empty the deleted items folder at the end of the day (here is the tutorial to implement it under Microsoft Outlook),

  • Provide a Doggy bag directly on the restaurant table

Either remind people of the social norm...

  • “89% of [french] households sort their waste” written on a trashcan (CITEO 2021).

  • Water, electricity contract that compare your own consumption with your neighbours'. Studies showed that information allowing for a comparison reduced consumption by 2%.

Or transform the responsible act into a game!

Nudging litter into the bin! (Nudge Unit Greece, 2019)
  • To fight against littering, Copenhagen city sticked footprints on the ground and leading to the nearest waste bin. It resulted in a 46% decrease in littering in the streets where the footprints were in use.

  • To reduce food waste in its restaurant, a school ran a collective game with a reward: the amount of waste avoided collectively during a week determines the desert offered the following week.

A nudge to keep streets butt-free (Ballot Bin)

To fight against littering, vote with your cigarette butt! This customizable hashtray has proven to reduce cigarette butt litter by 46%.

Can you think of any other nudge to encourage people in your premises to do the right thing ?


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