BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Protecting the environment often relies on individuals altering their day-to-day behavior. Understanding the
processes that drive behavior is key to changing the way we live – and to reducing our environmental impact
Busara utilizes evidence-based success of behavioral interventions in the environment sector to develop a wide range of innovative strategies for clients, including:
• Reducing energy or water use
• Reducing littering and waste
• Encouraging recycling
• Increasing uptake of clean technologies
• Encouraging conservation
WHY THE ENVIRONMENT MATTERS TO US
The environmental challenges facing the world are formidable. A large proportion of the world’s people know about these challenges and have the means to change their actions. Surveys consistently suggest that people are concerned about environmental problems and intend to act on them. Yet, concern does not always translate into intention, and intention does not always translate into action.
Behavioral economics provides insights into why this happens and how to change it. Recent years have seen dramatic successes of many behavioral economics-driven environmental projects, from energy-saving in the US to anti-littering programs in Denmark. Acknowledging the subconscious factors that drive behavior is the first step to achieving major behavioral shifts at low cost – with the potential to create real positive change in our environment today and in the future.
HOW BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS CAN HELP
Organizations and governments around the world have benefited from the power of behavioral interventions in improving the impact of environmental programs.
SALIENCE: GREEN FOOTPRINTS AND LITTERING IN DENMARK
Painting green footsteps on the pavement that lead to the nearest trash bin reduced litter by 46% in an experiment on the streets of Copenhagen. The presence of clearly visible green footprints makes it easier for pedestrians to find a bin – and subtly reminds them that it’s better to throw trash in the bin than on the floor.
OVERCOMING THE HASSLE: RECYCLING BIN PROVISION IN PERU
A study with a recycling NGO in Peru found that the provision of an inexpensive designated recycling bin to households increased weekly recycling participation rates by 6%. This increase was enough that the recycling organization more than recouped the cost of distributing bins from the value of the extra recyclable products it received.
SOCIAL NORMS: RE-USING HOTEL TOWELS IN THE US
Hotels often ask guests to re-use their towels to save on water and energy. Where guest were asked to re-use towels to cooperate with the hotel, 36-38% of guests re-used towels. With a small tweak to the message, leveraging social norms instead, rates of towel reuse increased by over 25%, to 48% of all guests.
Contact us to learn more about Busara’s work in the environment.