What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Waste from packaging poses a serious environmental problem. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that there were more than 80 million tons of packaging produced in 2018, with two-thirds of this packaging made of plastic or paper. Once the packaging is no longer in use, some of it is recycled, but much of it ends up in landfills. In 2018 alone, landfilled plastic and paper packaging waste amounted to 10.09 and 6.44 million tons, respectively, accounting for 11% of the total landfilled waste in the United States.
Despite the potential environmental and financial benefits of reducing excessive packaging, many products remain over-packaged, with layers of superfluous packaging added to the more necessary ones.
An international research team looked at how consumers respond to such overpackaging, where unnecessary paper is added to plastic. Across eight studies with consumers from the Netherlands, US, and UK, they found that people judge the combination of plastic & paper packaging as MORE eco-friendly than identical plastic packaging without the paper.
Our brains perceive paper as eco-friendly, while plastic is rather linked to images of polluted oceans. Driven by their biassed environmental friendliness perceptions, consumers are willing to pay more for over-packaged products and are more likely to choose them.
The Green Nudge:
To effectively counter these biassed perceptions, the researchers conducted a study to evaluate the impact of a „minimal packaging“ intervention.
One group of participants had to choose between granola bars packaged in plastic & paper or in plastic only. Another group of participants also chose between plastic & paper or plastic only packaged bars, but now there was a “minimal packaging” sticker attached to the plastic-only option.
The result: In the first group, without the intervention, we saw that people were on average more likely to choose the visibly over-packaged plastic & paper granola bar over the plastic only alternative. Importantly, once the “minimal packaging” sticker was added to plastic packaging, this preference was reversed: people became more likely to choose the minimally-packaged granola bar over the over-packaged plastic & paper counterpart.
Find out more in this Harvard Business Review article.
Are you aware of any other nudges that lead to better informed choices? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are happy to once again feature a Green Nudge study in our series. This one is coming from Tatiana Sokolova (associate professor of marketing at Tilburg University) and her co-authors: Aradhna Krishna (Dwight F. Benton Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan) and Tim Döring (assistant professor of marketing at the Maastricht University).