About to enter a building in NYC, I stopped. The doors were the usual kind, hinged and outward opening.
But there was a sign:
So, I continued onward to the revolving doors that were farther down the block.
Where are we going? To nudges.
The Good Turn
The revolving door is like a closed door. It has a circular enclosure that keeps the weather out. Swing doors are just the opposite. When they swing open, cold and warm air and humidity enter the building while heat and air conditioning exit. One study even concluded that swinging doors exchange eight times more air than those that revolve. Just by using a swinging door, you and I are expanding our carbon imprint.
Concerned that most people avoided revolving doors, several MIT students decided to observe and analyze door use on campus. Their focus was habits. They wondered how the habit of using swinging doors could be changed and what the environmental impact would be. To form some conclusions, they figured out the waste, they quantified revolving door use, and they tried to encourage new habits.
Our Bottom Line: The Nudge
Popularized by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the nudge is a seemingly minor incentive that changes our behavior. It could be a letter saying that all your neighbors pay their taxes and you should too. Or, it could just be the design of a saving program where “layaway” is the default.
Similarly, nudges could propel us toward a revolving door. While a sign could provide an explicit incentive, a design or location change might be less obvious. You could speed up the revolving door and make the swinging door heavier. People even said they would go to the revolving door if the person in front of them used it.
You can see that nudges add up. When our seemingly small everyday sustainability habits multiply, together we can make a global difference.
As did I by using the revolving doors.
Sources and resources: H/T to 99% Invisible for alerting me to the sustainability significance of revolving doors and its link to this MIT paper. Then for more on doors, Mental Floss is a possibility as is this state legislation on outward swinging doors.