What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
India used to have a significant issue with the habitual practice of open defecation, which led to the contamination of drinking and bathing water. To address this issue, the Government of India initiated the Swachh Bharat Mission or Clean India Mission in 2014. The country-wide campaign aims to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management, promoting a cleaner and healthier environment for all.
The Kumbh Mela is one of the world’s largest religious festivals, attracting around 200 million people over 55 days. However, in terms of sustainability, the festival presents unique challenges – particularly regarding open defecation and water waste.
The Green Nudge:
To effectively address the issue of open defecation, the organisers of the 2019 Kumbh Mela festival incorporated behavioural insights to implement a proactive solution. They recognized that breaking unsustainable habits can be difficult, therefore, they developed an action plan that taps into various nudge tactics; namely encouraging individuals to use toilets instead of practising open defecation.
Default: The organisers strategically placed toilets near religious sites to make them more convenient and comfortable than when openly defecating. This approach is an example of a default option, where the preferred behaviour is made the standard and more attractive than the alternative. Establishing a new default option is an effective means of influencing the hierarchy of choice for individuals and thus promoting positive habits. By making the preferred behaviour the default as well as a more attractive choice, individuals are more likely to adopt it.
Feedback: In addition to the default nudge, the organisers installed over 122,500 eco-friendly „smart toilets“ to cater to the needs of pilgrims and tourists. These toilets were equipped with sensors that provide immediate feedback to users on their water usage. By making the abstract (amount of water used) more concrete, this encouraged visitors to be mindful of their behaviour. The smart toilets incentivized water conservation by displaying information such as the amount of water used for flushing and handwashing.
The result: 9,888 MT of waste collected during the Kumbh Mela 2019, sent to Baswar solid waste treatment plant for scientific disposal, ensuring zero waste disposal in Ganga or Mela area.
This approach can be replicated in other contexts throughout India to effectively address the issue of open defecation and therein promote sustainable practices.
Are you aware of any other nudges that help to establish more sustainable habits? Get in touch: email@example.com