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EDITORIAL: Norm Nudging


We hope the drought that is degrading the livelihoods of Central Valley farmers generates an incentive for residents of Del Mar to foster a deeper spirit of sustainable behaviors in our community. We printed some suggestions in our last issue and the editorial staff will offer more actions for adjusting our behaviors and hope everyone will join us. Many residents are extraordinarily mindful about their water use. But can we honestly say that we are fostering sustainable behaviors in our entire community?

Research indicates that our duty to conserve derives from our sense of community responsibility. We learn from our Water/Sewer statements about our own household’s water usage and its change from the previous year, but we don’t know about other’s usage and their behaviors regarding conservation. We don’t really know if we are truly “all in this together.”

We might ask, “Do we conserve as well as our neighbors?” Is my water usage more or less or the same as other people in the R2-zone? Because I am in Tier One and my water bill is fairly steady, is there enough information to make changes in my water usage if I don’t know that everyone around me is using less water? As with most of our environmental behaviors we don’t have or receive comparative feedback about our community efforts.

At this point in the history of our persistent drought we are beyond needing conservation brochures and encouragement. Social Science research suggests that to transition to a sustainable future, it is critical to develop a set of community and societal norms that support sustainability. Norms guide how we should behave. But norms only develop as people interact and develop guidelines. What can I learn from my neighborhood practices that are better than my own?

Del Mar has taken a traditional approach to conservation education, an approach which many communities are enhancing with behavioral change practices – tools derived from community-based social marketing where neighbors are influenced by each other other’s actions. We can start by making our community norms more visible. Let’s nudge the norm.



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