3 ways you can nudge yourself to be more environmentally conscious

Ella Morrison • 3 min read

It is the start of a new year and more importantly, the start of a new decade and everyone at Cowry is looking to set new goals and establish better habits.

As expected, we have promised to adopt healthier routines and learn new skills, but the resolution that is at the top of our list is leading greener, more sustainable lives.

Younger generations, eco-warriors and activists across the globe are calling for immediate individual action. Everything from eating less meat and cycling more, to cutting out single use plastic and non-renewable energy resources.

Nowadays, you would be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t at least intend to try one of these things to reduce their environmental impact, but as you know, sometimes our old habits get in the way and it is hard to get in the swing of a green routine.

So, to help us all out here are three insights from behavioural science that might help save the planet:

1] Set yourself a short-term goal:

A lot of human behaviour is goal-driven, we constantly set ourselves targets and track our progress. And as we approach a goal, our efforts and commitment toward that goal increase.

Unfortunately, ‘saving the planet’ is a long-term goal that for most of us seems unattainable and as a result, many people give up before they have even started.

Instead, try to focus on a specific behaviour you want to change and set a short, achievable deadline. For example, saying no to takeaway coffee cups for 30 days or giving up animal products during National Vegan Month (November).

Setting multiple shorter-term targets throughout the year will help you achieve goals later down the line, because you can see that you are making progress and having an impact.

2. Find an accountability partner:

Once you’ve set a goal, ask someone to try it with you and make your commitment public. The more public our commitment is, the more likely we are to stick to it.

This is because we are motivated by the need to maintain a positive self-image and preserve our self-image. If we tell someone, we are not going to buy a take-away coffee cup for all of February, we feel really guilty if we don’t keep that promise.

So find yourself a friend or a colleague to take on a challenge with, that way if you come in to the office Monday morning with a Pret-branded coffee cup in your hand, there will be someone there to act disappointed, keep you accountable and get you back on track.

3. Take advantage of change in your life:


One of the most effective times to change your behaviour is when your existing routine is disrupted.

A great example of this was the London 2012 Olympics, where thousands of people’s daily commutes were interrupted in the lead up to the summer sporting event.

Over 75% of Londoners changed their commuting patterns to avoid the traffic, swapping in their private cars for more sustainable modes.

Once the Olympics was over, people stuck to their new commutes because they had formed a habit and it felt natural. So, if you are moving house or changing jobs, this is the perfect time to scout out your nearest cycle path/ quiet walking route, buy a compost bin and/or stock up on sustainable kitchen products, such as bamboo sponges and eCover washing up liquid.


Whether it is reducing the purchase of plastic bags or promoting effective recycling in the workplace, insights from behavioural science can help drive sustainable behaviour and decisions, both at an individual and an organisational level. And, although humans have historically been the biggest contributors to the climate change problem, we are also critically at the heart of the solution. So, now go and try these three tips today in order to lead a more sustainable life.

At Cowry we have worked with some of the world’s largest brands to help create incredible behavioural science-based sustainability initiatives. We would love to work with your company and help you do the same, so let’s have a conversation.


Bekkers, R., & Wiepking, P. (2011). A literature review of empirical studies of philanthropy: Eight mechanisms that drive charitable giving. Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly, 40(5), 924-973.

Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Goldhaber-Fiebert, J. D., Blumenkranz, E., & Garber, A. M. (2010). Committing to exercise: contract design for virtuous habit formation (No. w16624). National Bureau of Economic Research

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., & Zheng, Y. (2006). The goal-gradient hypothesis resurrected: Purchase acceleration, illusionary goal progress, and customer retention. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(1), 39-58.

TFL, 2013: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/olympic-legacy-personal-travel-report.pdf

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