How can we shift consumer behavior to encourage more sustainable practices?

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CEO in Manufacturing, 11 - 50 employees
I've seen a number of startup companies that are looking at the consumer behavior aspect and that instant gratification mindset. They’re trying to gamify it by giving the consumer choices that might change their behavior. For example, at eBay, we had this competition from our sustainability team. All these different groups came together to create a sustainable shipping box. The idea was that it ships out with a tag on it. If you reuse it, that tag gives you credit, which can change someone’s behavior.

From the infrastructure side, the reason I wanted to get a baseline together is that when we know there are seven million locations, we know that they consume 594 terawatt hours of energy. We know what that energy is from—each of the real estate addresses for those locations can be reported. Imagine if you then set the consumer behavior like Netflix; instead of deciding, “I only want to watch this,” I'll opt in on the sustainability side, which means it will route through the data center locations that are renewable. Then there's packet tagging all the way through. There's a technology aspect of it. It’s interesting consumer behavior. And you can get them engaged in that way but you have to gamify it so that they get something out of it.
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Managing Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

Right. There has to be a bit of consumer setup to change behavior.

Director IT | CTO Office | Digital Factory / Industry 4.0 in Hardware, 10,001+ employees

Amazon was trying that. They were offering a dollar off, but that is not the biggest incentive.

CEO & Founder in Software, 11 - 50 employees
I was watching a documentary on how many million tons of packaging waste is produced by Amazon every year, which isn’t responsibly recycled or disposed of. It’s so much cardboard, so why can't they recycle that stuff at some point? The big shift will have to happen where rubber meets the road, when it starts impacting the consumers. Maybe then Amazon will be bold enough to say, "Sorry we're going to discontinue that offering." But right now they are not. A consumer behavior shift has to happen, and they have to drive that.

There’s a company called Restalk that does responsible pulping and packaging, so there are interesting alternatives. But until there are changes in the corporate lust for acquiring customers and the consumer's demand for instant gratification, things won’t change. We can make sustainable changes on the compute side, but that will still be a small part of the puzzle in the grand scheme of things.
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Managing Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I don't know why we hate trees so much.  One of the greatest innovations of technology should be the full elimination of using paper.  Why can't we ship with reusable containers? Instead of packing various, already packaged merchandise into a carboard box, can't we swap reusable boxes?  Just spit-balling!

CEO in Software, 11 - 50 employees

I've worried about this problem for a while. The cardboard is bad enough, but all the extra plastic in the boxes might be even worse. Add on the smaller unit of delivery associated with going to homes and it's a real problem. 

Households are unlikely to consider this a serious issue though because most municipalities have "recycling", which makes the average consumer feel somewhat absolved. 

To me, this is like the true cost of fossil fuel vs a renewable. While actually buying coal and burning it might be cheaper than batteries and solar/wind, what if we measure the human and environmental health toll? If that cost were included in the usage cost of the fuel, we would likely see behavior change. Sadly, it would be yet another tax on low income folks as the wealthy wouldn't feel the pinch.


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