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April 22, 2016

Making Your Own Personal Climate Change Agreement on Earth Day?

There’s an App for That

Earth Day comes every year with a renewed promise by many to be gentler on our environment, recycle more, find ways to reduce their carbon footprint, plant trees and other good deeds. And one could assume—in similar fashion to New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym more—that a month or two later, those commitments wane.

But that all could change thanks to a bevy of Earth Day apps set to make people more in-tune with the environment and climate change. And with over 160 countries coming together today in New York to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, this is inspiration for making personal environmental-friendly commitments.

With apps that inform us how to become “greener,” we could all take part not just in today’s celebration but throughout the year.

One such app, is the GoodGuide. As reported in the New York Times, this app gives an alternative to learning about a product through traditional advertising, with product ratings about how they affect your health and the environment including food and skincare, and energy efficient products.

GoodGuide is free on iOS and Android and it scores a product in three categories: impact on health, environment, and society; with a sliding rating scale of up to 10. And there is a handy built-in barcode scanner to use at the grocery store in evaluating products too. It’s a novel idea and effective for those who buy products with the environment in mind.

With apps that inform us how to become “greener,” we could all take part not just in today’s celebration but throughout the year.

So who is really committed to making “greener” purchases?

While there is much perception that buying greener comes with a higher price tag, a recent Nielsen global online study of 28,000 respondents in 56 countries, found that 66 percent of millennials were willing to pay the extra premium for more sustainable products. And a majority of them are influenced by sustainability factors like the company being environmentally friendly (58 percent) and its commitment to social value (56 percent).

It isn’t overly surprising that millennials favor personal values like being eco-friendly over cost, convenience and savings. But they aren’t the only group, baby boomers are committed as well. The study also found that 51 percent of boomers (50-64) are willing to pay extra.

For these survey respondents, sustainable and ethical decision-making apps like GoodGuide are useful, but can they really disrupt consumer behavior on a large-scale—beyond Earth Day?

Conditioning consumers to buy eco-friendly products could benefit retailers, but one wonders on the consumer decision-making level if the intention-behavior (IB) gap will dwindle by using eco-friendly apps.

The IB gap is defined as having positive intentions to do the right thing, but having actions that don’t always line up with that belief. A consumer may feel committed to buying sustainable but may put this off for future purchases and select the less sustainable product for today. This builds up until habit forms and less sustainable products win out.

But with apps like GoodGuide and others, there’s a social pressure that can be created. If shoppers can select products and then recommend them to friends or share on Facebook, it could positively reinforce this behavior; and encourage others to make more environmentally conscious decisions—in essence lessening the impact on environment in a larger scale.

In theory, this app is great for helping consumers make better informed decisions. In practice, it will take discipline to use this app—and others—each time they buy.

There’s no doubt that the role our everyday actions play in climate change and the environment is huge. So today on Earth Day, as hundreds of countries sign the Paris agreement on climate change, millions of citizens around the globe will be thinking of how to disrupt their own lives by making environmentally conscious decisions.

Luckily, there’s an app for that.

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