Giving passengers free champagne could save railway £5 billion.
by Richard Milburn
The upgrade to the Eurostar services cost £6 billion to shave 30 minutes off the journey to Paris. But was there a better, cheaper way to solve the problem? In the TED talk below, advertising guru Rory Sutherland, suggests there was. For example, for 1% of that cost, free wifi could have been provided, so the journey became an extension of the office, reducing time pressures. Better still, by spending one billion pounds – still saving £5 billion – they could have employed the world’s top supermodels to walk up and down the train giving out free champagne, and (here’s the real irony) people would have asked the train to slow down.
This example highlights a fascinating approach to reframing problems that we face today (it also suggests some other options to put forward in the debate around HS2!) Can we take this ‘Champagne’ approach to sustainability challenges?
Some examples of different approaches already exist. The UK’s 5p bag tax, for example, has led to an 80% reduction in the use of plastic bags. Other initiatives were already in place to incentivise re-using bags; Sainsbury’s gave customers nectar points, for example. Yet it seems it was only when a charge was levied on bags that real change happened. This makes sense from a psychological perspective; we care more about money we might lose than that we might gain.
Overcoming the Cup Menace
Should such an approach be used for card coffee cups? A little known fact is that just 2% of coffee cups are recycled in the UK. Because of the wax lining inside of them, there are only two companies able to recycle them. This is an area where we need rapid change to reduce cup use, so perhaps it is time for a 10p cup tax? This would help to raise awareness about the damage wrought by these cups, change behaviour to encourage more people to carry keep-cups, and raise funds to support charitable initiatives or to enable better cup recycling.
In terms of sustainability messaging, it suggests new approaches are required to encouraging action on climate change. We need to talk more about solutions and solving problems that are tangible to more people. Developing electric cars to reduce poisonous fumes from motor vehicles that are damaging children is an argument that appeals to a wider audience than reducing carbon emissions, for example.
Do you have any ideas for ways to reframe sustainability problems? Let us know in the comments section below.