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New way of nudging leads to a more sustainable meal

16 October 2023
Encouraging people to think whether they want to make sustainable food choice makes it easier to nudge them in the right direction. This is the conclusion of environmental and behavioural economist Sanchayan Banerjee.

Our current diet, with lots of meat and dairy, produces a lot of carbon emissions and therefore does not fit in with global climate goals. Nudging, by presenting different food options differently, is effective, but also raises the question of whether you can manipulate people into making different choices. In a new article in Nature Sustainability Banerjee therefore tested a new method, nudge+, which he developed. With this method, people are still being nudged, but only after they have thought about the choice, they want to make themselves.

Forty percent more effective

Banerjee and his fellow researchers asked test subjects to order food from an online menu. In one of the groups, they applied regular nudging: participants could only choose sustainable dishes by default, unless they opted out of this. In another group they did the same but asked participants in advance to think about whether they wanted to commit to a sustainable diet. In both groups, nudging led to more sustainable choices than in the group that was not nudged. But nudge+ increased the effectiveness of the nudge by as much as forty percent.

Easy to integrate

According to the scientists, the built-in human autonomy in nudge+ ensures that consumers feel less resistance when they are nudged towards an environmentally friendly diet. ‘Many food suppliers try to promote eco-friendly eating. Nudge+ is a cost-efficient tool for this because these brief moments of reflection can be easily integrated into existing platforms, such as delivery apps or kiosks,” says Banerjee. 'We are optimistic that this study can contribute to developing sustainable and enduring shifts in behaviour.'