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The power of a (green) nudge

light switch with power plants and CO2 above it
Photo by Jasmin Sessler

My menu makes the most fanatic meat eater choose seitan! And this image above your light switch will definitely make you turn off the light more often.

Yes, it would.

No, of course I would never actually claim anything like this. But! Recent research does confirm that the way a restaurant communicates on their menu, can make people (unconsciously) choose a more sustainable meal.

This is called the power of a ‘nudge'.

As Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein once defined the term:

“A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

With other words, by nudging, we can make it easier for people to make the right choice. Whether this is a healthier choice, a sustainable choice or in some other way better choice.

So how do you nudge people towards for example vegetarian or vegan choices?

By making a vegetarian of vegan meal the default choice

Very often the vegetarian or vegan option is ‘the alternative’. By turning this around and making meat or fish ‘the alternative’, we can already have a big impact.

By changing the order in which people see the options

This is great for a buffet restaurant. If the vegetarian and vegan options are the first in line, chances are big that the amount op people choosing a meat dish is a lot smaller.

By changing the menu design and make plant-based the ‘dish of the day’

Making a meal the dish of day will make the meal more visible and therefore more likely to get people to order it, whether it is a conscious plant-based choice or not.

Of course there are many other ways of nudging people towards better behaviour, so if all marketeer would use these influencing techniques for the better, positive change will be a lot easier for all of us (hint, hint). We all have a limited amount of persistence for ‘good’ behaviour. So even the most fanatic changemaker, will thank you for making their daily choices easier. So, nudge away!


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