The UN Environment Programme, along with the Behavioural Insights Team and GRID Arendal, has launched “The Little Book of Green Nudges”. This book is a first-rate example of how the written word can be used to identify opportunities, target communities and motivate individuals to take active steps to both change their behavior and reduce their green house gas emissions.

The book is a quick guide for Higher Education Institutions to reduce their campus’ environmental impact. The concise and user-friendly publication includes 40 “nudges” that can be implemented by students and staff of universities.

The authors define nudges as positive and gentle persuasions to encourage sustainable behaviour. Using nudging techniques has many advantages including helping people to live by their values, they are mostly cost effective and are successful at raising awareness. Most importantly, they are needed now because of the publics concern with climate change.

The technique of “nudging” towards everyday greener decisions empowers students to take environmental action. Key to the success of this intervention is the timing. The years spent at university are undoubtedly students’ formative years; it is often the first time they are away from home, and they are forming new routines. It is envisaged that the sustainable habits and environmentally conscious behaviours that are developed during this period can last a lifetime.

Some examples of such “green nudges” include universities providing easy bicycle parking and repair stations to motivate students to cycle to campus, or making plant-based food the default dish which encourages students to follow more environment-friendly diets.

The Interreg Europe “Intensify” project stakeholder University College Cork has been included in the publication, in relation to the UCC Green Campus initiative. As part of the initiative, disposable cups were banned on campus and the use of reusable cups was encouraged. To “nudge” students and staff in the right direction, UCC installed cup washers on campus to reduce the hassle of using reusable cups. This resulted in a 20 per cent increase in reusable cup use.

The simple yet effective measures demonstrated in The Little Book of Green Nudges are targeting university students and staff to lead lower-impact lifestyles which will have a positive impact on the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive us towards achieving a low-carbon economy.

You can download the “Little Book of Green Nudges” here: