Labour must nudge society toward zero-waste

14.09.17 / In: Comment

By Adam Allnutt / @AdamAllnutt

A friendly nudge at the dinner table or in a social setting is there to help you change your behaviour at a given time. But the theory of nudging is not just for an awkward encounter with the in-laws, it is something that is used to change communities, improve the environment and better the quality of life of some of the poorest in society.

Many people find it hard to change engrained behaviours as we are creatures of habit and when we like doing something occasionally need a little – or big – nudge to change our life style and habits. Whether that is 5p carrier bag charges, full-on advertising on cigarette packets or tax breaks for electric cars. Sometimes we just need a nudge, even if it means Nigel Farage smoking outside his local.

There are some severe challenges that are going to be faced by our generation simply because our parents and generations before them were too settled into bad life styles and bad habits that over consumed limited resources. We are lucky now that the government has recognised there is a problem and trying to do something about it, hopefully it’s not too late. There is an old Native Indian proverb that says we borrow the world from our children we do not inherit it from our parents or in other words the world does not belong to us it belongs to our children.

We must look at ways of changing behaviours around consumption of not just people but businesses as well. Incentivising international video conferencing rather than air travel, car-pooling schemes or assisting manufacturing to be greener, less polluting and more efficient.

As we move towards a manifesto for 2020 – or sooner – and think about how our world will be shaped we must think of the countries bad habits that consume the limited resources we live on. As technology progresses at an ever-increasing rate we must think about what happens to the left overs of the products we consume and ensure that they can be recycled and nothing is wasted. We need a cyclical zero-waste economy to show the world it can be done.

David Attenborough was quoted last month as saying: “I spend a lot of time wringing my hands and saying how dreadful it is that this forest has been obliterated and that sea has been polluted and whatever. But there are signs of hope. There has been a worldwide shift, I think, among people in general about the concern there should be for the natural world. I am encouraged more than I have been for some time.”

The public mood is shifting, and the Labour Party must lead the charge in championing this shift and we will be rewarded in the long term.

But as with everything many people won’t want or feel motivated to change their behaviour because it’s easier to be lazy, so they will have to be nudged. We shouldn’t be afraid to tell the public at times it is all collective fault that we have reached this point and that we need to change the way we live so that we leave the country – and the planet – in a better state than we found it in.

Many post-war governments in the UK have used policies to nudge the public towards behaviours that keep people safe but they don’t really want to do so it hasn’t always gone down well. The smoking ban, speed cameras, parental controls and sometimes excessive labelling on our food, we need to be pushed into changing our habits.

We need to push people to protect the world we have borrowed from the people who will follow us. The next Labour government should be bold and nudge society into a zero-waste economy, no matter how much it might hurt – because in the long term it is the right thing to do.

© 2017 Open Labour