Science Cafe about an economy without waste.
Money not always effective in changing behaviour.
Handgraaf knows from studies in his own field how difficult it is to influence human behaviour. Rewards help, as all parents know. But what is the best reward? Does money work better than a (publicized) pat on the back, for instance? Not always, as shown by a study of his published recently in Ecological Economics. Ecofys employees were 'held to account' for their computer's energy consumption. A public pat on the back for energy-efficient behaviour turned out to be by far the most effective measure. A monetary reward actually sometimes had an adverse effect: people were so disgusted they used more energy rather than less.
Grants do not always persuade people to make the switch. 'My favourite example is always the cyclist who stands at the roadside with a flat tyre,' says Handgraaf. 'If the cyclist asks you for help, it's highly likely you will help him. But if he says "I'll give you one euro" you won't do it. Then you'll say "Just one euro? No way!" The focus has shifted from doing something good for someone else to a financial transaction. People being offered one euro as compensation for dirty hands will say no. Efficient behaviours often only result in small financial gains.' In contrast, the grants for solar panels have been extremely successful, says Handgraaf, because the returns were sufficiently high.
The appropriate approach depends on the target group. Handgraaf says that is the real challenge. 'The real question is not whether it is technologically possible. Far more thought needs to go into how to persuade people to make the right choice.'