How Social-Consciousness Fuels Eco-Consciousness

12/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After a revolt against plastic bags swept Europe a few years ago with a public response to a popular outcry not seen on the continent since 1848, bans and taxes on these convenient but profligate polluters are now sweeping the US. But as expensive as these taxes can be, new research shows that a few extra cents tacked onto your grocery bill isn't always as costly as the glares from customers using their own canvas bags.

People's social motivations are usually stronger than their green consciousness and even their economic motivations, according Noah Goldstein, a UCLA professor who has published on the motivations behind environmental behaviors. In a recent study, Goldstein and his team found that a standard environmental message on a sign in a hotel bathroom isn't usually enough to encourage visitors to reuse towels. But telling customers that other hotel patrons had been hanging their towels on the racks instead of leaving them on the floor made them 25 percent more likely to do the same.
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