The smart folks over at Volkswagen have stumbled across the same truth that Antanas Mockus shared with us during the DeLange Conference earlier this year: sometimes humor is the best way to change behavior.
Case in point, at a particular subway station in Sweden everyone rode the escalator up, virtually no one chose the stairs. Well, stairs are clearly a little healthier since they require more effort to walk up… so is there something that we can do to encourage people to make the healthy choice? See for yourself:
This is a really fun and entertaining approach to problem solving -- and it’s also pretty smart. Many well-intentioned government officials might have proposed a “health law” stating that only the elderly and disabled may use the escalator. This would have had several consequences:
It’s critical to think outside the box to solve issues that are cultural in nature. Many, many societal issues are cultural, and have to be addressed through culture, not law. The problem is usually that people grew up with behavior shown to them by their parents, they’ve never seen or tried anything different, and so they can’t imagine how there could be anything better.
For instance, I’ve suggested before that Houston needs to change its culture of “Dress-clothing” to be more climate appropriate. Why? Office buildings, churches, schools etc. throughout our region regularly set their temperature to 68 degrees so that people in suits will be comfortable. Many people, especially women, are not comfortable sitting still at 68 degrees unless they are wearing heavier clothing.
So in order to be comfortable indoors you must dress for cool weather. Dressing for cool weather makes going outside in 95 degree heat unbearable. Therefore, we believe that people “cannot, will not, and do not” walk anywhere because of the heat.
But think of how much energy cost we could save if buildings typically set their indoor temperature to 78 instead of 68 in the summer. The cost savings would be dramatic! In order to make this comfortable, we would have to dress appropriately. And, if we dresses appropriately, we might find being outdoors in the summer wasn’t as unbearable as we thought.
How could we achieve this change? How about having “Dress for the Weather Week” as a community event? Let people see and experience what dressing for the weather does, and let’s measure the energy savings we achieve. After the results are in, and after many people are exposed to this new behavior, people attitudes and perceptions may shift enough to cause a lasting change. It won’t happen all at once, but if we held a “Dress for the Weather Week” every year, we’d probably find that within a decade or so that it was standard behavior throughout the summer.
It’s something to think about, anyway.