We, the YES!-Team from the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Schule, have chosen the topic “Nudging Sustainable Consumption”. During our work, we were fascinated by the versatility of this topic and we realised how important it is to develop new projects in order to nudge the people to live more sustainable, especially because we are the next generation.
The main problem is that even though there are active people and useful projects for the sustainability in our world, they cannot be implement due to the inadequate financing. We think that many people like certain projects in general but often the final decision for their financial support is missing. The question is: how can we motivate the people to donate for these good projects ?
Our idea for the topic “Nudging Sustainable Consumption” is to establish an Optional Eco-Donation (OED) in the tax declaration. This means the taxpayer can donate 0.1% of his income tax annually. Since this is optional, we decided to use an opt-out system, which means that the taxpayer has to tick off the box at his tax declaration in order to not pay the money. This is our nudge, by which we want to give the possible donator a “shove” in the right direction. At the same time, he has no longer the conflict or to work to actively decide to donate.
An example for this well working opt-out system is the organ donation. In countries which use this system like Austria or France are much more donators than in other countries like Germany. Of course, not all people make a tax declaration, so this solution can only involve 68% (destatis), but alternative projects would have a much bigger administration and organisation effort.
Even if 50% of all taxpayers who make a tax declaration (ca. 13 million) pays the Eco-Donation, this will make 80.00.000 euros – annual. With this money, we will finance sustainable projects which will be chosen by a foundation council.
A possible project would be to establish return machines in public places for re-usable mugs to avoid all the plastic. All coffee shops get reusable mugs, which the consumer can receive for a forfeit. Afterwards, he can return his mug in the café or in one of the return machines. This project could finance itself by advertisement on the mugs.
We want to create a budget for all the promising projects, which already exist with our Eco-Donation in order to let them become real.
Sustainable projects only work with sustainable funding.
Industrialised 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 effective strategy for influencing behaviour. 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.
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?
Learn more about the YES! Team of the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Schule Neumünster and the YES! Team of the Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium Hamburg.