NRDC & Garrison Institute Release "Behavioral Wedge": 15% Cut in U.S. Emissions Achievable Through Simple Inexpensive Personal Actions

UPDATE 3/19: TIME reports on NRDC-Garrison Institute study.

Last week, NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner presented the “Behavioral Wedge” at the first-ever Garrison Institute Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium.  A joint NRDC-Garrison Institute project, the wedge identified one billion tons worth of annual U.S. greenhouse gas reductions possible through simple and inexpensive personal actions.  One billion tons, or one gigaton (Gt), is one-seventh of current national emissions, roughly equivalent to the emissions of the UK and Saudi Arabia combined.   

The actions were divided into four sectors, transportation, household energy, food, and consumption.  The proposed measures included reducing idling, using a programmable thermostat, replacing red meat with poultry two days per week, and buying recycled paper products.

As Marc Gunther picked up in his blog, Peter was quick to emphasize that personal action is no substitute for policy and regulatory change.  Nor is it a competing interest.  On the contrary, Peter spoke of a potential synergy between the “personal” and the “political” realms:

“If you start biking to work, you may become more active in your community, to make sure there are bike lanes. Policy is no longer abstract. It’s very real.”

The Symposium brought together leading thinkers and practitioners in the fields of climate change, environmental advocacy, psychology, social media, policymaking, investing, and neuro-, evolutionary and behavioral economics.  By engaging these experts in the field, NRDC and the Garrison Institute hope to make behavioral change a reality.

Check out our peer-reviewed fact sheet and official press release, and see further coverage on TreeHugger, Mother Jones, and Globe-Net.


Would you like to reduce and track your personal impact?  Sign up for the SimpleSteps community today. Curious to see what behavioral change looks like on a national scale?  Watch what happens when your fellow Americans follow your carbon-cutting lead in this interactive simulator.