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Hard Earth Talk: Push, Not Price

October 12, 2017 - 4:30pm to 5:20pm
Roble Theater in Roble Hall

Why a popular approach to greening human behavior is just wrong

One of the most common strategies used by policymakers to green consumer behavior is, it turns out, misguided. Environmental policy has long sought to protect the planet by raising the prices of polluting products from fossil fuels to gas-guzzling cars. Underlying these policies is the assumption that consumers, when slapped with higher prices, use less. But new research suggests that penalizing people with high prices is less effective in changing their behavior that exhorting them to be their better selves. Targeting social norms and applying peer pressure strategies can more effectively change behavior than simply raising prices. Translating kilowatt-hours of energy to acres of clearcut trees can better communicate to consumers the real impact of their actions. Ultimately, understanding how consumers respond to the rhetoric used to influence behavior is fundamental to creating more effective policies.

Kelley (KC) McKanna | PhD Student, Environment and Resources

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Hard Earth