Can Indifference Make the World Greener?

28 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2013

See all articles by Johan Egebark

Johan Egebark

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Mathias Ekström

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Date Written: September 10, 2013

Abstract

We test whether people's tendency to stick with the default option can help save resources. In a natural field experiment we switch printers’ default settings, from simplex to duplex printing, at a large Swedish university. The results confirm that roughly one third of all printing is determined by the default alternative, and hence daily paper consumption drops by 15 percent due to the change. The effect is immediate, lasts throughout the experimental period, and remains intact after six months. We also investigate how the more conventional method of encouraging people to save resources performs, and find it has no impact. Recent theoretical and empirical contributions indicate that the default effect works through recommendation, depends positively on the number of alternatives in the choice set, and is reinforced for difficult decisions. We demonstrate that the default option matter in a simple, non-dynamic, decision task with only two alternatives, and where people have been explicitly informed about the recommended course of action.

Keywords: default option, resource conservation, natural field experiment

JEL Classification: C93, D03, Q50

Suggested Citation

Egebark, Johan and Ekström, Mathias, Can Indifference Make the World Greener? (September 10, 2013). IFN Working Paper No. 975. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2324922 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2324922

Johan Egebark (Contact Author)

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Mathias Ekström

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 55959817 (Phone)

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

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