A thought-provoking little report about the difficulties involved in changing consumer behavior on Grist. The writer phrases things in terms of sustainability, but (some of) the insights translate. The non-solutions include (ht MS):
Lots of people seem to hope/wish that [changing consumer behavior] were simple. Many, many (many!) people cling to the notion that the way to motivate behavior change is simply to give people more information. Untold sums of money have been spent sending people brochures or sending them to websites where they can learn more; the results of those programs are almost uniformly dismal. Information is not motivation.
Others cling to a different illusion: that price alone can shift behavior, that financial self-interest is a kind of ur-motivation, trumping all others. Carbon pricing, according to the economist’s dream, will drive cascading behavior change across the entire economy. In fact, as [environmentalist and author Dr. Doug] McKenzie-Mohr illustrated at length, programs driven by economic incentives (rebates, etc.) have underperformed again and again. As he told me later, he’s a supporter of ecological tax reform, but we should be realistic:
The most that price can really do is enhance motivation to act. If we get the prices right, it does not make it any easier for the person who does not have a vehicle, or is physically disabled, to get down to the hardware to pick up a programmable thermostat. It just makes them feel more anxious about the fact that they ought to be doing it.