UN launches ‘green nudges’ to encourage universities to become environmentally friendly

‘The Little Book of Green Nudges’ is the UN Environment Programme’s first publication on behavioural science and nudge theory, which focuses on human actions and how to change them

A new programme aimed at inspiring up to 200 million university students around the globe to adopt environmentally friendly habits and greener lifestyles has been launched.

‘The Little Book of Green Nudges’ is the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) first publication on behavioural science and nudge theory, which focuses on human actions and how to change them.

It contains 40 ready-made nudges – or simple measures that make it easier to make green choices – which university campuses can deploy to encourage students and staff to embrace more sustainable behaviours.

UNEP believes nudging can be a powerful tool at universities, especially when deployed alongside strategies like decarbonising and divesting from fossil fuels.

Examples of nudges include using appealing descriptions for plant-based dishes, making recycling bins eye-catching and easy to use, setting up a system to share leftover food from meetings or events and offering smaller plates and no trays in cafeterias to discourage food waste.

UNEP is collaborating with higher education institutions around the world to pilot nudging on campuses, with 20 universities, including the University of Chile, University of Nairobi, University of Tsukuba in Japan and the University of California in Berkely, having joined the programme so far.

The Little Book of Green Nudges has been drafted in collaboration with The Behavioural Insights Team and GRID-Arendal.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “Universities are the source of so much knowledge that students will continue to utilise throughout their lives – instilling sustainable habits and values should be a key part of this education, with the potential to shift to cleaner, greener societal behaviours.

“Changing behaviour is critical if we are to stay within our planetary boundaries. We invite higher education institutions across the world to join us in employing nudges on their campuses.”

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