One of the benefits of having one of our household on maternity leave is that we have a steady stream of tradesmen turning up to fix all the things that have broken over the last couple of years. One of these was the security light at the back of our house. When the chap came to give us a quote, it was clear that his default position was to install a bog standard 150W light. I asked him to install the most energy efficient one he could and he did, selling us this dinky little 10W LED light - a whopping factor 15 energy efficiency improvement over the other one - giving the same brightness at a tiny extra cost.

What hit me though, was his instinctive default position which I had to challenge. Many people would simply assume that they were getting the best option and go with the flow and the electrician was assuming we'd be happy with that. Everyone stays in their comfort zone and (high carbon) life continues as usual.

This sums up the challenge for those trying to effect change at both the organisational level and at the macro-economic level. Too many people on both supply and demand sides of transactions assume that the same old same old is perfectly acceptable, even if there is a much better and greener option available.

One tactic is to pick a clear winner - such as LED lighting - and use that to demonstrate the benefits of new thinking. LED technology gives a swift return on financial investment and LED lamps are now coming in all shapes and sizes from oven hood lights to huge industrial factory lamps. Once you've driven through one winner, people will tend to be more receptive to other changes in the status quo.

As for my electrician, I hope that my decision has gone some way to nudge him out of his comfort zone and make him more likely to at least proffer up the efficient option. One day, LEDs will almost certainly become his instinctive default and the more nudges he gets, the quicker that day will come.


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