Working Paper No. 975

Can Indifference Make the World Greener?

Published: September 10, 2013Pages: 27Keywords: Default option; Resource Conservation; Natural Field ExperimentJEL-codes: C93; D03; Q50
Published version

Can Indifference Make the World Greener? Johan Egebark and Mathias Ekström


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.

Johan Egebark

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Ph: +46 (0)732 54 29 26
johan.egebark@ifn.se

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State

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This book explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between the European Union and its member states. The recent surge in tension in this relationship has been prompted by the actions of some member state governments as they question fundamental EU values and principles and refuse to implement common decisions seemingly on the basis of narrowly defined national interests.

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