What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Despite significant technological advancements and growing environmental consciousness, carbon emissions continue to be the predominant problem in the realm of mobility. Frequently, individuals tend to prioritise convenience and speed over critical considerations such as fuel efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint when selecting transportation routes. Unfortunately, this widespread tendency can result in elevated carbon emissions– consequently posing a grave threat to our environment.
There are several psychological biases and forces underlying this unsustainable behaviour in transportation. The most prominent is “inertia,” where people tend to stick to habitual routes rather than actively seeking more eco-friendly alternatives. “Present bias” is another issue, with people favouring short-term benefits (shorter travel times) over long-term gains (reduced environmental impact). There is also a lack of awareness about the environmental impact of one’s choices, and the false perception that eco-friendly routes are less efficient; of which the latter is influenced by past experiences (anchoring bias).
The Green Nudge:
In October 2021, Google Maps initiated a noteworthy change to promote environmentally responsible driving decisions. They introduced an eco-friendly route as the default choice for users, effectively embedding a „green nudge“ within their platform. This eco-conscious route is calculated using Google’s innovative routing model, which takes into account variables such as road incline, and traffic congestion, to optimise routes for reduced fuel consumption. In cases where the estimated time of arrival (ETA) for the eco-friendly route aligns with that of the fastest route, it is automatically presented as the default option. Even when the fuel-efficient route is not the quickest, users can effortlessly compare fuel savings and time differentials between the two routes with just a few taps.
The result: Since its U.S. and Canada launch, this intervention has already contributed to an annual reduction of over 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions, effectively eliminating the environmental impact of more than 200,000 fuel-powered cars. Notably, this eco-conscious feature has since extended to over 40 European countries as of 2022, including nations like France, Ireland, Spain, and the UK. In these regions, users can now specify their vehicle’s engine type, enabling a more precise estimation of eco-friendly routes.
Are you aware of any other nudges that help to reduce carbon emissions? Feel free to get in touch: email@example.com
From Lucas Yew who is a behavioural and experimental economics graduate from the University of East Anglia. He designed a lab experiment to study how information overload affects consumers’ purchasing decisions for his master’s dissertation. Currently, he works as a student opportunities intern at the UEA, where he enhances internship experience for students by applying behavioural insights to the processes. With his background in risk advisory and behavioural science, he welcomes challenges that can drive impactful solutions with behavioural insights.