Saving Nature with Behavioral Science

My approach to eco-activism is to try to get people to see their self-interest in conserving resources and protecting ecosystems, via their daily household habits.

I’ve often heard it said that it’s easier to motivate people to change their behavior than it is to motivate them to change their attitudes or beliefs. What have you noticed about this? It does, for example, seem to be pretty easy to get people to recycle when there’s actually a bin for that. Same with composting.

In some countries, such as Japan and England, it’s just naturally easier to lead a low-footprint life than it is here in the USA, because of how things are set up. Streets; living spaces; public transport. You can be green without thinking about it. Imagine if supermarkets just didn’t give out plastic bags! We’d all instantly have a lower footprint by default.

Besides our everyday physical surroundings, another force that can prompt green choices is if we get people to 1) see their self-interest in doing something (or refraining from doing something), and 2) make a pledge to do (or refrain from doing) that thing.

According to a talk by Erik Thulin, “Saving Nature with Behavioral Science,” local fisher folk were motivated to self-limit their take to sustainable levels, once 1) they were guided to see their self-interest in limiting their take; and 2) they took a public pledge to limit their take.

Further Exploration:

Saving Nature with Behavioral Science (TEDx Cambridge Salon talk by Erik Thulin on YouTube).