The Power of Nudges in Environmental and Health Behaviors: The Case of Disposable Cutlery Consumption and Antibiotics Utilization

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Online via Zoom Webinar

  • Yuhang Pan, Assistant Professor of Economics, Institute for Global Health and Development, Peking University,
  • Jianan Yang, Assistant Professor of Economics, Institute for Global Health and Development, Peking University
The Power of Nudges in Environmental and Health Behaviors: The Case of Disposable Cutlery Consumption and Antibiotics Utilization

Co-sponsored by Peking University Institute for Global Health and Development, and the Asia Health Policy Program

Plastic pollution and antibiotic resistance are significant threats to human health. The overuse of plastic products and antibiotics, often driven by individual behaviors, plays a major role in these challenges. The presence of externalities leads to further overuse, intensifying the problem. In this webinar, we will present two research studies that employ the nudge strategy to explore its effectiveness as a low-cost method in promoting socially desirable behaviors. We will focus on the contexts of disposable cutlery consumption and antibiotic utilization, providing insights into how subtle behavioral interventions can have a meaningful impact.

Title 1: Reducing single-use cutlery with green nudges: Evidence from China’s food-delivery industry

Rising consumer demand for online food delivery has increased the consumption of disposable cutlery, leading to plastic pollution worldwide. In this work, we investigate the impact of green nudges on single-use cutlery consumption in China. In collaboration with Alibaba’s food-delivery platform, Eleme (which is similar to Uber Eats and DoorDash), we analyzed detailed customer-level data and found that the green nudges—changing the default to “no cutlery” and rewarding consumers with “green points”— increased the share of no-cutlery orders by 648%. The environmental benefits are sizable: If green nudges were applied to all of China, more than 21.75 billion sets of single-use cutlery could be saved annually, equivalent to preventing the generation of 3.26 million metric tons of plastic waste and saving 5.44 million trees. 

Title 2: The Impact of Self- or Social-regarding Messages: Experimental Evidence on Antibiotics Purchases in China

We study two interventions in Beijing, China, that provide patients with information on antibiotic resistance via text message to discourage the overuse of antibiotics. The messages were sent once a month for five months. One intervention emphasizes the threat to the recipient's own health and is found to have negligible effects. The other intervention, which highlights the overall threat to society, reduces antibiotics purchases by 17% in dosage without discouraging healthcare visits and other medicine purchases. The results demonstrate that prosocial messaging can have the potential to address public health issues that require collective action.

Yuhang Pan 120623

Yuhang Pan's research fields include environmental economics, health economics, and development economics, with a particular focus on using causal inference approach to study the impact of environmental pollution, public policy, and climate change on health and social welfare. His works have been published in both economics and scientific journals, such as Science, Nature Sustainability, and the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Dr. Pan obtained his undergraduate degree from Beijing Normal University in 2015 and his doctoral degree from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2021. Prior to joining Peking University, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Hong Kong.

Jianan Yang 120623

Jianan Yang's primary research fields are health economics and development economics, with specific interests in health policy reform, medical behavior, and pharmaceutical innovation. She employs both experimental and quasi-experimental methods to explore policy-related questions, particularly examining their impact on patient welfare. She has published in top journals like the Journal of Development Economics. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Mathematics from Renmin University of China in 2016, and her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, San Diego in 2022. Before joining Peking University, she was the 2022-2023 Developing Asia Health Policy Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University.