Art and Persuasion
May 13, 2012, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Editorializing, Ideas, Research

In 1995, the new mayor of Bogota, Colombia, set out to address the gridlock and jaywalking that were bringing his city’s streets to a standstill. His solution didn’t involve police or fines, yet it worked so well it was emulated in five other Latin American countries. What did this mayor know about changing behavior that we don’t?

Our usual approaches to changing people’s minds – quoting facts, yelling louder, calling in mom/the police/the military,  and ganging up/getting out the vote – are of limited effectiveness. Even if you get your way today, the cost and effort of keeping the unconvinced on your side can be substantial. So if not by force or facts, how do you win over hearts and minds?

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What motivates the motivators?
March 27, 2012, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Brain dump, Editorializing, Research

Gamification is the concept of using the principles of game design in non-game settings, whether it’s making work more productive and rewarding or encouraging people to live healthier lives. I’ve had the pleasure recently of attending two panels on gamification applied to more sustainable lifestyles. As it turned out, the most interesting part of the panels wasn’t how the companies motivate consumers to reduce their environmental impact, but rather how the companies’ business models motivate the design of their programs. What are the incentive structures of the organizations that are creating incentive structures for the rest of us?

The participants in the panels came from Recyclebank (which recently acquired Greenopolis), Terracycle, Practically Green, and MyEnergy, among others. Other companies doing similar work include Daily Feats, Opower, Wattz On, Mint, Weight Watchers, and Good Guide. Continue reading

Contradictions in the water debate
February 21, 2011, 2:42 am
Filed under: Editorializing, Research | Tags: ,

Bottled water is a favorite target of environmental opprobrium, as is corporate ownership of (and profiting on) water sources and infrastructure. But it’s complicated.

Bottled water
If people are drinking water in bottles instead of drinking tap water, well, that’s a shame. But if people are drinking bottled water instead of sugared soda or beer or coffee, then that’s a net positive. Continue reading

My environmental footprint
February 21, 2011, 1:27 am
Filed under: Research | Tags:

According to, it would take 3.9 planet earths if everyone lived like I do. The site estimates that 17.4 global acres of the earth’s productive area is dedicated to supporting my lifestyle, primarily for energy, and there are 18.3 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions) with my name on them. To reduce my footprint, the site suggests that I reduce my consumption of animal products (i.e. dairy as I’m already a vegetarian), use less packaging or more post-consumer content packaging, use renewable energy, use more efficient appliances, and vacation locally instead of by plane. Continue reading