Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You’re Driving?

Economics of Going GreenMarch 7th, 2012 - I recently listened to a Freakonomics podcast  (Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You’re Driving?). It discussed the economical perspective of why people “go green” and how they make their choice purchases (such as buying a Prius instead of a Honda hybrid).

 According to a recent model developed by a couple of PhD economic students, people are 30% more likely to purchase a Prius over an equivalent semi-electric car strictly based on appearance (conscious or not).

The authors of the model went on to describe people in San Francisco choosing to install solar panels in more visible locations even if a sunnier alternative exists. They even suggested that to have the biggest effect on saving the environment, people in the Bay area should consider buying solar panels to be installed on someone’s home in sunnier places, say Bakersfield. Why don’t they? According to this podcast, people like being seen going green.

What is the theory for our behavior? We are looking for social recognition for our “good deeds,” or like to partake in “conspicuous consumption.” Although we like to do the right thing for a good cause, we may also like to have others recognize us for the good we are doing. In some ways we are all still children inside. So, the next time you make a donation to an organization or worthy cause – say Everybody Solar – they should find a way to recognize you that allows you to win brownie points with your peers.

Written By: Myriam Scally, MPHTM