The idea of “fun and fame” needs to be incorporated into everything we do — not just occasionally, but on an everyday basis. Why? Because we want to feel good about what we are doing, and we as humans are biologically wired for this positive feeling. When we feel good about something, our brains produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which opens our blood vessels and gives us a sense of euphoria. This, in fact, is the “drug” that speakers continually brought up at the Gamification Summit, and its importance in motivating us is what I firmly believe has been missing in the sustainability movement.
So what’s the most effective way we can go from engendering guilt and shame to providing an incentive of fun and fame? Lets take a look at every day things that could make a difference. The “Cracker Jack effect” might be a very good example. Growing up I really wasn’t all that enamored with the caramel popcorn, but I loved the fact that there was a gift in every box and it was always something different. Could we perhaps return to those “thrilling days of yesteryear” and put a prize into every LED light bulb? Or how about automatically entering the user in a lottery every time he or she returned one to be recycled? I think so. What if people were given incentives for buying locally grown food or dairy products? Or rewarded for purchasing non-toxic cleaning supplies and soap, or for buying fish that aren’t in danger of becoming extinct?
Maybe dopamine, which is naturally available to all of us all the time, is the magic elixir that can get us all to “do the right thing.” I think it can – and I think figuring out ways we can activate this natural neurotransmitter for the betterment of the planet is going to be great fun (as well as bringing a measure of fame to whoever is most successful at it). Personally, I can’t think of a better way we can start using our brains for positive change.