Can we use this to save the planet?

As a parent, I’ve known for a long time that the most effective way to get a child to do what you want them to do is to clearly state what you do want them to do and avoid telling what you don’t want them to do, eg; “walk on the footpath”, rather than “don’t walk on the road”.

It’s a bit similar to an article I was linked to today which described how people like to do what other people are doing and are strongly influenced by the way messages are expressed, in particular

… people were actually more likely to steal wood from the forest when they saw the sign telling them how many people tend to do it themselves, even though the very next sentence was asking them to refrain. But when the researchers simply tweaked the message to read that “the vast majority of past visitors have left the petrified wood in the park, helping to preserve the natural state of the Petrified Forest,” the thievery plummeted.

We don’t really care so much about what we should do. We care about what other people do. And then we really, really care about not being different.

It’s a shame really. I hate telling people that “all the cool kids are doing it”,  but that’s human nature and it’s how we got improved water efficiency during the long drought and 14% of homes with solar panels and increases in cycling commuter numbers.

<Sigh>, but I’ll use it when I’m describing possible sustainability measures in a building to a client, if it means that I can do my bit to save the planet.

XKCD bridge comic