Nudging Sustainable Consumption

This project is supported by our academic partner Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) and the researcher Christine Merk.

Industrialized nations’ lifestyle is not sustainable as resources are depleted, the environment is degraded and global warming is fueled. This puts the welfare of current and future generations at risk. Fostering sustainable consumption is a major task for reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Lifestyles can become more sustainable when for example waste is reduced, fewer fossil fuels are used, or less meat is eaten.
Classic economic instruments like taxing waste, resource use or pollution are often not implemented as they are politically unpopular. Subsidies are costly and often not an efficient strategy for influencing behavior. Even if people would like to consume more sustainably they find it hard to break old habits and do things differently compared to what they did before or to what everyone around them does. The challenge is to change consumption habits that are deeply rooted in our minds and in our society.


Recently, economics has started to pay attention to findings from psychology about how people’s behavior can be changed by nudges. Nudges include changing the order of presentation or the default option when choosing goods, structuring complex information clearly, reducing the cognitive burden of actions, or giving people feedback about their behavior.


Nudges that work are for example
•    Setting a default for offsetting a flight’s greenhouse gas emissions when booking a flight. People have to actively deselect buying the offsets.
•    Informing a household about its energy consumption compared to its neighbors’ consumption.
•    At the cash machine, returning the credit card before the money so the card is not forgotten.


Who is responsible for changing consumption patterns? Why are taxes unpopular? Who has an interest in unsustainable consumption? How can public awareness be increased? How can nudging help to make people behave more sustainably, i.e. generate less waste, emit fewer greenhouse gases, or use fewer resources? How can public awareness be raised?

YES! Teams


Logo Alexander-von-Humboldt-Schule Gymnasium Neumünster
Logo Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium Hamburg

The topic “Nudging Sustainable Consumption” can be selected by YES!  teams from the region North as a YES! 2017 topic.


“Nudging Sustainable Consumption” has been chosen by the YES! teams of the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Schule Neumünster and the Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium Hamburg.


Find out more about our teams and visit the YES! Team of the Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium Hamburg and the YES! 2017 Team of the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Schule Neumünster.

Academic Partner


Logo - Kiel Institute for the World Economy

The project “Nudging Sustainable Consumption” was proposed by researchers at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW). The YES! Teams are supported by the researcher Christine Merk.

Joint Project of

The YES! – Young Economic Summit is a joint project of the  ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics and the Joachim Herz Stiftung in Hamburg.


The ZBW is the world’s largest information centre for economic literature and excellently positioned to help students gain information literacy and provide relevant resources.


The Joachim Herz Stiftung is economically independent and politically neutral. The foundation has a wide experience in developing ideas and implementing projects for young people, in particular on economic education.

Logo Joachim Herz Stiftung


Laura Bickel
Project Manager
t: +49 (0) 431 8814 359

Portrait Kai Meinke

Kai Meinke
Project Manager
t: +49 (0) 431 8814 643

Photo credits (top to bottom): (c) / patpitchaya, (c) IfW – Kiel Institute for the Economy, (c) / Jacek Rogoz, (c) ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft, (c) Joachim Herz Stiftung.