Want to Change Environmental Behavior? Make It a Game

Online gaming techniques – such as contests, rewards and interactive content – can engage people around social and environmental issues, and influence offline behavior change, according to a new study.

Recyclebank, the company that rewards people for taking everyday green actions, in partnership with consumer insights agency ROI Research and Google, released a joint report on the subject.

The report, conducted over the month of April during Recyclebank’s nationwide Green Your Home Challenge, reveals gaming techniques, often referred to as gamification, can be effective in moving individuals along the spectrum of sustainability, as has the potential to create widespread movements around social and environmental causes. 

Gamification refers to the practice of using games in non-game environments as a way to encourage people to adopt desired behaviors. Nearly 49,000 people participated in the Challenge.

"The data and insights we’ve gained from the partnership with Google and ROI Research confirm our philosophy that the carrot is a very effective approach to motivating a major shift in consumer behavior, and that people are eager to learn how they can live greener lives," says Javier Flaim, senior vice president of global marketing at Recyclebank.

Highlights from the study include:

Gamification can increase awareness of positive environmental actions. 97% of the Challenge participants surveyed say the game increased their knowledge about how to help the environment.

Games can drive individuals to take positive social and environmental actions. 54% of existing members and 58% of new members say they are very or extremely likely to take green actions as a result of participating in the Challenge.

Games hold power to impact actual green actions. When reviewing the reported green actions for those surveyed both before and after the contest, there were significant increases in several actions that were featured in the Green Your Home Challenge and even some that weren’t mentioned at all prior to the launch of the game.

For example, the number of people who turn off lights increased 44%, and those using energy efficient lightbulbs and conserving water/energy increased by 36% and 32% respectively.

In addition, 14% of respondents say they buy local produce, and 7% say they wash clothes in cold water. That compares to 0% for both activities before the Challenge began.

Games are an effective and appealing educational tool. 86% agree online games and contests can be a good way for companies and brands to inform and educate them personally, and 73% think games/contests are a good way for companies to interact with people generally.

The data also confirmed this. Compared to Recyclebank.com visitors, Challenge participants spent nearly three times as long on the site learning about ways to live greener, and viewed nearly three times more pages. This indicates a significant opportunity to use games as a means to not only entertain, but also educate people on the environment and other causes in a way that truly resonates. 

"Gaming for good is an incredibly exciting area of study, and through this report we’ve gleaned some valuable insights into how it can be leveraged to inspire people to action," says Scott Haiges, president of ROI Research. "Not all games are created equal, however; through our research and Google’s powerful analytics, we learned that to truly engage around a cause or issue, games should be educational and interactive; make an online and offline connection; and have social elements that enable the participant to get their friends involved."

Following the success of the Green Your Home Challenge, ROI Research and Google are partnering with Recyclebank to measure the effectiveness of the company’s future challenges, the first of which launched last week. Called the Green Your Vacation Contest, the newest challenge tackles summer travel by showing participants how they can make their vacations greener.

Read the report:

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