What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
The rising demand for convenient doorstep meal deliveries has propelled the popularity of food-delivery services, notably led by Alibaba’s Eleme, akin to Uber Eats and DoorDash, with a staggering user base of 753 million in 2022. Conversely, this convenience-driven surge intensifies the global environmental challenge posed by single-use cutlery (SUC) waste.
In China, where over 540 million users embraced daily food-delivery consumption by 2019, more than 50 million sets of SUC were disposed of without proper recycling. This concerning trend not only contributes to significant plastic waste but also accelerates deforestation, further jeopardizing ecosystems and posing health risks.
The Green Nudge:
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Chinese policymakers set an ambitious target to reduce SUC usage by 30% in food deliveries by 2025. To comply with city regulations, Alibaba changed its app by using green nudges to reduce single-use cutlery.
Ele.me changed its app interface in the following ways: (i) by adding a pop-up window that required customers to explicitly choose the number of SUC sets with their orders, (ii) by setting the default for this pop-up window to be “no cutlery,” and (iii) by providing a small non monetary incentive (green points) to those choosing the no-cutlery option. The green points do not have a monetary value, but if one accumulates enough points, they can be redeemed in exchange for planting a real tree (under the customer’s name) in a desert area in China.
The results: Guojun He, Professor at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues (2023) conducted a longitudinal study to evaluate the effectiveness of the green nudges mentioned above in reducing individuals’ SUC consumption. The findings show the following:
- Increased Non-Cutlery Choices: Green nudges reduce the demand for SUC and exhibit a persistent effect.
- Diverse Behaviour Impact: Green nudges encourage a significant portion of individuals to make moderate behavioural changes.
- Positive Business Outcome: Green nudges are cost effective in reducing single-use cutlery (SUC) waste without compromising economic outcomes.
- Environmental Impact: By extrapolating the results, should China nationwide adopt green nudges, the country alone could save over 21.75 billion SUC sets annually, while conserving 5.44 million trees.
Feel free to check out a different intervention that also aims at reducing plastic cutlery usage here.
Are you aware of any other nudges that promote environmental-friendly behaviour? Feel free to get in touch: email@example.com
From Jie Tang, a graduate student studying at the Institute of psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Her research interests focus on understanding the mechanisms of attitude-behaviour gaps in sustainable behaviour, and promoting individuals’ pro-environmental decision making and wellbeing.