This Friday at New World Fest, I will be speaking on “The New Spirit of Sustainability,” or what I see as the need for a redo in our approach to environmental issues. Rather than being too late in the game to change our focus, I think the timing might be just right. The theme of the speech is that we should dispense with using guilt and shame to change behavior, and make fun and fame our incentives instead.
But how do we make this fundamental motivational shift? The first step is realize that we have not made the progress we need in the green movement, largely due to our having turned people off with a “global boring” emphasis, as I like to refer to it, and now are going through a period of eco-fatigue. But the work our team has been doing at Greenopolis clearly shows me there is a better way to achieve positive change, and it is by making the desired behavioral modifications fun, interesting and competitive. In other words, using “game mechanics” that include rewards and prizes as key motivators for doing the right thing.
The difference is that instead of trying to make people feel guilty for not doing their part in helping to eliminate greenhouse gases, for example, or for not recycling or reducing their “carbon footprint,” we encourage the desired behavior by providing feel-good inducements. And I mean that quite literally, because the types of rewards I’m talking about – winning prizes, gaining status — have been shown in experiments to stimulate the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that creates a feeling of euphoria. (To get a better idea of how this works, check out this RecyclePix video at our Greenopolis website).
Based on what I’ve seen and the research that’s been done in this area, my belief is that this “new spirit of sustainability” can be achieved effortlessly –and that smart entrepreneurs and environmentalists alike will come to realize that fun and fame are much more powerful motivators than guilt and shame.