Nudge grants in action: Social norms and cutting carbon

Long time Nudge blog readers may remember the London borough of Barnet, which received money last year for nudge grants. One of those grants went toward a pilot project that taps into social norms to reduce residents’ carbon footprints by asking them to walk more, lower the heat, and take other simple steps that can protect the planet.

A traditional persuasive strategy would be based on stressing how this could benefit the environment. But the council is going further in testing out techniques of influence.

The residents are asked to make pledges in a face-to-face conversation with one of the canvassers who have been going door-to-door in this area.

They are only asked to make some limited pledges – to choose three out of nine options on the pledge card they are shown.

And posters on lampposts proclaim the number of households in that street who have agreed to participate.

The BBC just produced a 38-minute program, Persuading Us to Be Good, about this project and other nudge friendly ideas in the U.K. (Richard Thaler is featured in the program.) As Barnet Council leader Mike Freer says, “We’ve got to stop nagging. If nagging worked we’d all be skinny, we’d all be recycling and we’d all be walking to work.” Listen to it here.

Tags: ,

  • Daniel Hope

    Hi. I listened to this program and have read Nudge cover to cover.

    The ideas in the book are great.

    I just don’t see how this Council Leader’s proposal to have people harassed on their own doorstep to be lectured and sign a form isn’t old style Stalinist nagging!

    The cost must be prohibitive and and the results patchy, to be generous.