26 April 2021
Little Book of Green Nudges Outlines Steps for Greening Campuses
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The booklet is based on findings in behavioral science that show that “nudging” individuals towards greener decisions can lead to greater environmental action.

Examples include sharing information about positive trends, such as use of reusable cups or consumption of plant-based foods, and reduce waste at the end of term by providing locations and organizing events where students can donate or sell textbooks or household items.

If you want to encourage a behavior, make it “Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely,” according to a publication on using behavioral science to increase environmental action. Ideas under each of these concepts are provided in a “how-to” booklet that seeks to help college campuses become more sustainable.

The booklet, commissioned by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and authored by UNEP’s Behavioural Insights Team, is based on findings in behavioral science that show that “nudging” individuals towards greener decisions can lead to greater environmental action. Nudging techniques for building more eco-friendly campuses include gentle persuasion, changing the framing of choices, resetting default options, and harnessing social influence.

The ‘Little Book of Green Nudges’ summarizes evidence about nudges that will work best to encourage more sustainable practices among students and staff. It offers examples of nudges related to energy conservation, water conservation, sustainable diets, reduced material consumption, sustainable and reduced travel, reduced food waste, recycling, and engagement and support for change.

Examples of nudges that could be taken on campuses include: 

  • Make the plant-based or other sustainable option the default choice for meals at catered events; if attendees want another option, such as red meat, require them to pre-order it, which is the current norm for plant-based options;
  • In university cafeterias, offer smaller plates and no trays to reduce food waste; 
  • Install smart meters for electricity, gas, or water with feedback displays in student residence halls and university department buildings;
  • Share information about positive trends, such as use of reusable cups or consumption of plant-based foods; and
  • Reduce waste at the end of term by providing locations and organizing events where students can donate or sell textbooks or household items.

GRID-Arendal provided editing and coordination support for the booklet, which was published in September 2020. [Publication: The Little Book of Green Nudges]

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