Encouraging Environmentally-Friendly Behavior
I have been thinking about the problem of how to incentivize people to behave in an environmentally-friendly way. Some say that telling them about how much money they can save from switching to solar or turning off lights, for example, is the most effective way to get them to conserve energy. But more and more, studies are showing that people are not just economically-driven actors.
This latest study compares the effectiveness of financial incentives vs. health considerations when people were told that they should conserve energy. When people were told that it was much better for their health as well for other people's health if they used less energy, they reduced their energy usage much more than when they were told that using less energy would save money.
So, this is definitely an important point for environmentalist to keep in mind--when talking to people about driving less or switching to electric cars, the emphasis on deleterious health effects from breathing in carbon particulates should be front and center. Or, when discussing protecting natural ecosystems such as wetlands, environmentalists should underscore the fact that vibrant wetlands filter toxins from water and air and therefore, have beneficial effects on our health. Even the use of plastics has a health angle--drinking from plastic bottles, using plastic-coated hot cups, or wrapping food in plastic can all cause plastic molecules to leach into the food that we consume.
So, environmentalists need to use health concerns as a way to prevent people from engaging in unsustainable behavior!