Please turn off the lights when exiting the room

Please turn off the lights when exiting the room

Nudging toward sustainability: Research from the University of Waterloo shows the power of an individual’s behaviour in making sustainable change

A photo of a parking lot with solar panels. An office building is in the background.

Living in society means we are under the influence of others. This power can impact our behaviors and actions, which can result in both positive and negative results. For Mohamed Yousuf, the power of influence formed an integral part of his graduate studies research.  

A recent Master of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management graduate, Yousuf used his thesis to bridge quantitative methods of carbon emissions reporting with qualitative methods of social influence frameworks. His goal was to identify effective strategies to reduce workplace energy consumption through minor adjustments in employees’ work routine. His living laboratory was evolv1, a net-positive energy, zero-carbon building in the University of Waterloo’s David Johnston Research and Technology Park. evolv1 is an example of high-performance green infrastructure and the perfect location to examine the energy behaviors of occupants within a sustainable building. 

To influence evolv1 employees, Yousuf used a tool known as nudging — the use of gentle, unobtrusive prompts to educate and modify unwelcome activities. “We are constantly shown nudges in our everyday lives, from calendar reminders to loyalty programs. When these encouragements minimize environmental impact, they are referred to as a green nudge,” Yousuf says. “Green nudges have been proven to be informative and influential and result in reductions in energy, water, and fuel.”  

Read more about Yousuf’s research and results on Waterloo News