IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Can nudges affect students' green behaviour? A field experiment


  • Ajla Cosic

    (Institute of Management – Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies)

  • Hana Cosic

    (Institute of Economics – Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies
    BETA, University of Strasbourg)

  • Sebastian Ille

    (New College of the Humanities)


Ecological behaviour is impeded both by financial and behavioural hurdles. A growing literature in behavioural economics and psychology suggests the use of non-price intervention nudges over other monetary incentives. We analyse whether nudges are indeed efficient in promoting recycling of resources among young people, and whether the combination of different types of nudges serve as better instruments. The study was performed on primary data from a field experiment conducted among university students in Pisa over a 60-day span. We collected data on 1849 instances of plastic cup recycling at a coffee vending machine at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa. Recycling behaviour was measured by the number of plastic cups disposed in the proper dustbin, observed at the end of each day. Results of the experimental treatments showed a significant improvement in the amount of recyclable cups when a combination of nudges was applied.

Suggested Citation

  • Ajla Cosic & Hana Cosic & Sebastian Ille, 2018. "Can nudges affect students' green behaviour? A field experiment," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 2(1), pages 107-111, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:beh:jbepv1:v:2:y:2018:i:1:p:107-111

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    2. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2023. "Libertarian paternalism," Chapters, in: Cass R. Sunstein & Lucia A. Reisch (ed.), Research Handbook on Nudges and Society, chapter 1, pages 10-16, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
    5. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
    6. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    7. Noah J. Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini & Vladas Griskevicius, 2008. "A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels," Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Research Inc., vol. 35(3), pages 472-482, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Angela Yi Jing Tsai & Alex Yong Kwang Tan, 2022. "Analysis of Undergraduates’ Environmentally Friendly Behavior: Case Study of Tzu Chi University Environmental Education Program," Energies, MDPI, vol. 15(13), pages 1-17, July.
    2. Alessandro Cascavilla & Rocco Caferra & Andrea Morone, 2023. "The green and the dark side of distance learning: from environmental quality to socioeconomic inequality," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 7(2), pages 33-38, December.
    3. Grilli, Gianluca & Curtis, John, 2021. "Encouraging pro-environmental behaviours: A review of methods and approaches," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    4. Fenzl, Thomas & Brudermann, Thomas, 2021. "Eye cues increase cooperation in the dictator game under physical attendance of a recipient, but not for all," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    5. Ayoubi, Charles & Thurm, Boris, 2020. "Pro-environmental behavior and morality: An economic model with heterogeneous preferences," OSF Preprints w8afg, Center for Open Science.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Beshears, John & Kosowsky, Harry, 2020. "Nudging: Progress to date and future directions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 161(S), pages 3-19.
    2. Rachel Croson & Nicolas Treich, 2014. "Behavioral Environmental Economics: Promises and Challenges," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(3), pages 335-351, July.
    3. Egebark, Johan & Ekström, Mathias, 2016. "Can indifference make the world greener?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-13.
    4. Allcott, Hunt & Rogers, Todd, 2012. "How Long Do Treatment Effects Last? Persistence and Durability of a Descriptive Norms Intervention's Effect on Energy Conservation," Working Paper Series rwp12-045, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Damgaard, Mette Trier & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2018. "Nudging in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 313-342.
    6. Ekström, Mathias, 2021. "The (un)compromise effect: How suggested alternatives can promote active choice," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 90(C).
    7. Schubert, Christian, 2017. "Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 329-342.
    8. Rosanna Nagtegaal & Lars Tummers & Mirko Noordegraaf & Victor Bekkers, 2019. "Nudging healthcare professionals towards evidence-based medicine: A systematic scoping review," Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, Center for Experimental and Behavioral Public Administration, vol. 2(2).
    9. Frederiks, Elisha R. & Stenner, Karen & Hobman, Elizabeth V., 2015. "Household energy use: Applying behavioural economics to understand consumer decision-making and behaviour," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1385-1394.
    10. Leonhard Lades & Federica Nova, 2022. "Ethical Considerations when using Behavioural Insights to Reduce Peoples Meat Consumption," Working Papers 202209, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    11. Luca Congiu & Ivan Moscati, 2022. "A review of nudges: Definitions, justifications, effectiveness," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(1), pages 188-213, February.
    12. Joseph,George & Ayling,Sophie Charlotte Emi & Miquel-Florensa,Pepita & Bejarano,Hernán D. & Cardona,Alejandra Quevedo, 2021. "Behavioral Insights in Infrastructure Sectors : A Survey," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9704, The World Bank.
    13. Becchetti, Leonardo & Salustri, Francesco & Scaramozzino, Pasquale, 2020. "Nudging and corporate environmental responsibility: A natural field experiment," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C).
    14. Ross Guest, 2010. "Policy Forum: Saving for Retirement: Policy Options to Increase Retirement Saving in Australia," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 43(3), pages 293-301, September.
    15. Cristiano Codagnone & Giuseppe Alessandro Veltri & Francesco Bogliacino & Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva & George Gaskell & Andriy Ivchenko & Pietro Ortoleva & Francesco Mureddu, 2016. "Labels as nudges? An experimental study of car eco-labels," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 33(3), pages 403-432, December.
    16. Nicolas Aubert & Thomas Rapp, 2010. "Employee's investment behaviors in a company based savings plan," Finance, Presses universitaires de Grenoble, vol. 31(1), pages 5-32.
    17. Joshua Henkel & Georg Schwesinger, 2020. "Establishing Sustainable Consumption - How Future Policies Can Channel Consumer Preferences," Bremen Papers on Economics & Innovation 2007, University of Bremen, Faculty of Business Studies and Economics.
    18. Chakravarty, Sujoy & Mishra, Rajan, 2019. "Using social norms to reduce paper waste: Results from a field experiment in the Indian Information Technology sector," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 1-1.
    19. Schleich, Joachim & Gassmann, Xavier & Faure, Corinne & Meissner, Thomas, 2016. "Making the implicit explicit: A look inside the implicit discount rate," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 321-331.
    20. Denis Hilton & Nicolas Treich & Gaetan Lazzara & Philippe Tendil, 2018. "Designing effective nudges that satisfy ethical constraints: the case of environmentally responsible behaviour," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 17(1), pages 27-38, November.

    More about this item


    green behaviour; nudge; experiment; abehavioural change; policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:beh:jbepv1:v:2:y:2018:i:1:p:107-111. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: SABE (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.