Environment Ecosystems

Increasing opportunities for sustainable behavior

Ecosystems

Summary

A new study shows how even minor changes to available infrastructure can trigger tipping points in the collective adoption of sustainable behaviors.

Perspectives and insights

  • Even linear increases in opportunities for pro-environmental behaviors can have much larger effects. This is because when the environment makes it easier for someone to adopt a certain behavior, the behavior also gets copied and learned by others.
  • The importance of infrastructure that make pro-environmental behaviors easy and the "path of least resistance" is crucial in this regard and must form part of governments' action plans.

Xoologue - a discussion between Xoo and Moo

Moo: This is something I can vouch for, Xoo - the importance of infrastructure that makes pre-environmental behaviour easy.

Xoo: Who can deny its importance, Moo? The bigger question is, how does one create such infrastructure without having to spend a lot of money? Remember, having many neighbourhood parks will make the localites walk more and become more eco-friendly, but you will surely agree that it’s beastly difficult to carve out parks in cities that have scarce real estate.

Moo: Well, the city corporations will have to find out a way. That’s what they have been elected for.

Xoo: Spoken like a true citizen, Moo. I'm thinking about corporates rather than corporations, and I tell you what! I can think of a few things the corporate world can do to create these pro-environmental infrastructure without spending much.

Moo: Let’s listen to your ideas

Xoo: I’ll just provide two, Moo. One is the staircase. In many office buildings that have fewer than five floors, one simple act to make more people use the stairs is to simply make them aware of its existence.

Moo: I presume that’s a joke, Xoo. Surely everyone knows that the staircase exists.

Xoo: Yes, they do. But in most office buildings around the world, you access the staircase by pushing open the door that says “Fire exit”. It’s almost as if you are supposed to use them only in case of emergencies! 

Moo: I get your line of thought, Xoo. What’s the second idea you have for corporate?

Xoo: Standing tables.

Moo: I thought all tables stood.

Xoo: Ha-ha, you prove at times that you have a lighter side, Moo.What I meant was tables at which you can stand & work.

Moo: Sounds awkward to me.

Xoo: Try it out. They actually are quite healthy for short duration work – be it reading, writing or working on your PC.

Moo: But what’s the big deal about standing, Xoo?

Xoo: Well, the big deal isn’t about standing, but it’s about not sitting at one place for too long. A recent Mayo clinic study inferred that "sitting is the new smoking." I guess that pithy sentence says it all.