At Home with Sustainability: From Green Default Rules to Sustainable Consumption

Lara Anne Hale

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Although it is often assumed that default rules affect change without awareness, this paper suggests that contrast with the default and transition into conscious adoption of the default design may be the starting point to establish long-term changes in consumer behavior. Despite the rooting of default rules in subconscious decision-making, this research finds that, ultimately, awareness drives the demand necessary for the creation of sustainable consumption. Whereas direct appeal to individuals has a disappointing level of influence on sustainability choices, it is understood that green consumers do come from somewhere. Green default rules offer interesting prospects for sidestepping the drawbacks of direct marketing to individuals. Under green default rules, behavior is guided by a default, such as utilities automatically sending customers renewables-sourced instead of fossil-fuel-based energy. To act otherwise requires additional effort and is less likely. Motivated by a need to understand how defaults might bridge standards and sustainable consumption, I investigate how organizational processes potentially lead from standardized green default rules to individual awareness that can spread and facilitate sustainable consumption. This paper examines the Active House sustainable building demonstrations in Europe in order to understand how (1) communications and market creation and (2) responsible, user-centered experimentation are organized to move from defaults to sustainable consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Article number249
Issue number1
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Green default rules
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Sustainable building
  • Standardization
  • Smart home
  • Default bias
  • Automation

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