What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
High altitude lakes nestled in the French Savoy Mountains are pristine and fragile ecosystems that have long been cherished for their natural beauty and serenity. However, these idyllic alpine sanctuaries are facing a growing threat – mass tourism. As tourists flock to the Savoie region in search of adventure and relaxation, they often indulge in the tempting activity of swimming in these pristine mountain lakes. While swimming can be a delightful experience, it comes at a cost to these delicate ecosystems.
Mountain lakes are particularly sensitive environments, where a delicate balance of flora and fauna thrives in crystal-clear waters. The influx of tourists dipping into these alpine waters disrupts this equilibrium. Human activity introduces pollutants, disturbs the habitats of aquatic creatures, and can lead to erosion around the shorelines.
The Green Nudge:
In a bid to preserve the fragile mountain ecosystems of the Savoie department, the local authorities commissioned the „NUDGE ME“ agency. In the summer of 2023, in four of the region’s pristine mountain lakes, the agency deployed two green nudge sign designs for testing: the shark and the mermaid.
These signs represent a delightful fusion of humour and environmental conservation, designed to tap into our instinctual, “System 1 thinking”. The shark, for instance, is not your typical local finned predator, but a whimsical sign placed at the water’s edge. Instead of causing fear, it provokes curiosity. Visitors are left wondering, „Why on earth is there a shark warning in a mountain lake?“
The accompanying message is where the magic happens: „Of course, no shark here! But a lake with a fragile ecosystem. Don’t swim, thank you!“ This humorous twist activates “System 1 thinking” by using surprise and wit to gently nudge visitors towards the desired behaviour.
Throughout the summer, numerous observations were conducted by local stakeholders, including Regional Natural Park agents, shepherds, and professional hikers.
The results: A significantly fewer number of visitors dared to swim in these high-altitude lakes. The shark and mermaid nudge signs, with their humour and visual impact, effectively conveyed the message that these mountain lakes are delicate ecosystems worth protecting.
Are you aware of any other nudges that promote sustainable tourism? Feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Jean-Marc Badaroux, the Director of nudge ME, the pioneering French communications agency dedicated to the art of nudging. With eight years of experience, nudge ME specialises in consulting on a wide range of topics, including health, safety, sustainable development, civic engagement, UX or management.