The biggest deterrent to going green is, for most people, a simple matter of habit: We're used to doing things a certain way, and it's hard to break the pattern. That fact is among the findings of an American Psychological Association study of the reasons Americans are resistant to changing their behavior to become more environmentally-friendly, despite recognizing that climate change is a serious issue. The APA's study examined the psychological impacts and barriers of climate change, and found that several factors were to blame. Among them:
In other words, even though 75 percent to 80 percent of respondents in a Pew poll said that climate change is an important issue, indecision and shortsightedness are among the reasons that respondents ranked it last in a list of 20 important issues. But habit is deceptive—it seems to be the easiest to change, but may be the hardest. That's why there are campaigns designed to help people remember their reusable bottles in lieu of buying bottled water, as well as the entrepreneurs behind Bagnesia, a system of reminders to bring reusable bags to the store.
One classic way to break a bad habit is to provide an incentive. Saving money is one major motivation, and the design of various smart meters, which tell people how much they're spending on utilities as they go, has been successful in encouraging people to turn down the thermostat. Competition is also a powerful incentive, and other utility companies have pitted neighbors against one another in energy efficiency, with positive results. How would you break a bad environmental habit?