Environmental Information to Support Behavior Change?

I spoke on a panel at the Green:Net 2009 conference yesterday in San Francisco. The panelists presented a number of very interesting projects focused on delivering and sharing environmental information, and more importantly, on trying to support environmental change through online and mobile tools.

Some interesting lessons from the panel:

  • Information needs to be in the right tone. Doom and gloom doesn’t work. Neither do celebrity spokespeople.

  • Surprises and optimistic innovations are compelling.

  • People like to compare themselves to their friends. So fun competitions can be really effective.

  • Rewarding people with social “status” online can also be very compelling.

  • People like to save money and save time.

Our moderator – Alexis Madrigal of Wired.com – pushed the panel on how we can move beyond just presenting information to actually supporting behavioral change. My response was captured by an intrepid video blogger.

Bottom line: people often care first and foremost about the health of their families. So providing compelling health information is often a great strategy for connecting to broader environmental and social issues. And continuously providing answers to actual questions, or solutions to pain points, is critical to getting people to use our information.

One of the things we are also working on – and which we would love your feedback on – is how to deliver the right information, in the right form, at the right moment in your decision-making processes. We are currently working to refine our ratings and our web and mobile apps to be simpler and more closely integrated with the decisions you make everyday.

What recommendations would you make for helping GoodGuide provide better information to support your decision-making?

Or put another way, if you could only have one sip of information from GoodGuide – rather than drinking from the firehose we currently offer – what would it be?

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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3 Responses to Environmental Information to Support Behavior Change?

  1. Jack Block says:

    On the strength of the New York Times article in the Business Section of the June 15 issue, you have probably been overwhelmed by their news item, which, in turn probably overwhelms your overwhelmingness — the word I choose because you use it frequently (without the gratuitous ness ending I have given it).

    I have one simple appeal: please do not use light blue type on even lighter blue backgrounds! Older (as well as younger) people who may have vision problems, will be turned off by this. This print is reminiscent of the small print which appears on the bottom of pages which seem to deny claims made in large print in the main body of the ad. You know the old saying about this: The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away!

  2. Lori says:

    <i>…if you could only have one sip of information from GoodGuide – rather than drinking from the firehose we currently offer – what would it be?</i>

    Actually, I prefer the firehose over the sip. What would be ideal is bulk download in whole or in part from the firehose (say as .csv files), as well as the ability to do deep <i>ad hoc</i> queries against the firehose (perhaps a telnet to an SQL prompt).

    What I think is needed is a SETI@Home type approach to analyzing the firehose.

    What is the access point for this firehose of which you speak, anyway?

  3. heather says:

    a searched for a specific product-it was not rated but i did get a message that in 10 seconds a full list would load. this brand now had products listed but not part of the "best list" yet still had ratings as high as 7.1 it was very confusing…

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