How lazy people can save the world

21 Apr
From Bloomberg Businessweek

From Bloomberg Businessweek

We laughed when “Seinfeld” described itself as a show about nothing because we knew it was about everything. Now there is some thought that the way to solve the environmental crisis is to do nothing.

Let’s not laugh. It could fix everything.

This process, that involves nothing, was discussed in a Bloomberg Businessweek article called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” The key to it is something called default rules. The default rules take hold only when people do nothing. But first, governments, corporations or groups larger than the individual must act to set those pro-green defaults.

Each day we live with defaults, often not knowing they are there.

If you haven’t changed things on your cell phone or computer, they look and operate the way they do because of default settings – a ring tone or a screen saver or a folder icon. Your printer probably defaults to print on one side of a page.

Suppose each printer came with a default setting that printed to both side of the page?

According to Businessweek, Rutgers University imposed a double-sided default on all printers at that institution. After four years, it reduced paper consumption by more than 55 million sheets, which saved 4,650 trees.

That was one university.

Book-SimplerShould we choose to make it so, the default system could be extensive. In two towns in Germany, 90 percent of the people use clean energy (wind, solar, etc.) because that is the default. If you want the less-expensive, less-clean power, you have to do something. You have to tell them to change it for you.

As shown, most don’t.

This natural tendency toward laziness, procrastination and acceptance can be exploited for good. It doesn’t restrict freedom. It just points everyone in the right direction. If they choose, they can turn around and go the other way.

Learn more about doing nothing to save the world by reading “Simpler: The Future of Government,” by Cass R. Sunstein.

By Lanny Morgnanesi

5 Responses to “How lazy people can save the world”

  1. Jim Wood April 21, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Reblogged this on Time for Action.


  2. Rick Senkowsky April 21, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Interesting points…one question I do have is what if the default is life as we currently live it? What if the majority are satisfied with the way we do things now? For example you mentioned saving trees….To people living in the South for example, they grow trees for a living, farm them just like corn and wheat. To some it is saving trees to others it is a loss of livelihood. Who’s right? Who makes the determination of “default” or the “new normal”? All I am saying is the system we currently live under gives us the freedom to choose and most people in the US value that freedom. Educated “elites” have been trying for years to promote a European lifestyle in America and we alway seem to reject it because it lacks the one thing we value more than anything else, freedom. Europe is not a model that most Americans, outside of those living in cities, care to follow.


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