Working Paper Series
Can Indifference Make the World Greener?
() and Mathias Ekström
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Default option; Resource Conservation; Natural Field Experiment; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: C93; D03; Q50; (follow links to similar papers)
27 pages, September 10, 2013
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