What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Let’s start with two questions:
- What is the recommended daily amount of veggies you should consume in order to follow a healthy diet?
- How many people actually meet the daily intake of vegetables
To speak for the Netherlands, only 6% of people aged between 1-79 years consume the recommended daily amount of 250g of veggies. The German nutrition organization even recommends eating 400g veggies and 250g fruit per day. But as only 13% meet the recommendation, the organization started the “5 per day” initiative to promote a healthy plant-based diet. It should be no surprise to find similar data in other countries.
Why should we care? Besides the comparably higher CO2 emissions that come with meat-based diets and the lack of animal welfare, an inadequate vegetable consumption is a public and individual health concern.
So how can you nudge someone to make more healthy food choices such as veggies?
The Green Nudge:
Supermarkets can have a considerable impact on people’s food choices. In a 2020 quasi-experiment in a Dutch supermarket with 244 participants, researchers tested two Green Nudges that used the idea of social imitation.
The researchers put inlays in shopping trolleys that
a) communicated a social norm message about vegetable purchases and
b) showed a designated place to put vegetables
The result: 73.3% of people noticed the green inlay in the shopping trolley. The social imitation intervention led to a statistically significant increase in grams of vegetables purchased. This was especially true for people who bought groceries for less than three days, which could be explained by a more impulse and thus more influenceable behaviour.
Social scientists have demonstrated the influence of peer behavior in a host of areas. We’ve been building bigger houses, driving heavier vehicles, flying to remote destinations or engaging in a host of other energy-intensive activities. A dominant reason we are doing these things is our tendency to behave as our peers do. But experiments like this give reason to believe that peer effects could be similarly beneficial to our climate future and individual health improvements.
Full article in ScienceDirect.