In the context of World Environment Day, a multi-pronged strategy is required to protect the planet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced Mission LiFE at Glasgow’s 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). The central message of the pro-planet movement is “lifestyle for the environment,” inspired by nudging.

What is a nudge? What are the nudges underlying Mission LiFE?

Nudges and Mission LiFE

According to Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (2008), a nudge is any form of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour predictably without restricting options or significantly changing their economic incentives.

Mission LiFE underpins seven themes guided by “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Each theme offers a choice architecture to people for nudging their behavioural decisions to protect and preserve the environment.

Themes include saving water, saving energy, reducing waste, saying no to single-use plastic, reducing e-waste, adopting healthy lifestyles, and sustainable food systems. First, water-saving choice architecture has various options, although these are context-specific. For example, cultivating less water-guzzling crops like millets, recharging rural water bodies through the Amrit Sarovar Scheme, crop diversification, using efficient water-saving technologies like zero tillage, micro-irrigation, alternate wetting and drying, direct seeded rice, etc.

Second, energy saving is most important for sustainable development. Mission LiFE nudges people to use LED bulbs, and tube lights, avail public transport, use stairs instead of an elevator, use bicycles for local or short commutes, switch off irrigation pumps after use, prefer CNG or EV vehicles over petrol or diesel-operated ones, use biogas for cooking, and so on.

Third, saying no to single-use plastic will protect the environment and mitigate fatal diseases like cancer. Recycled materials can replace single-use plastic like bamboo toothbrushes and neem combs, non-plastic eco-friendly cutlery during events.

Fourth, waste (solid) management has gained considerable traction at the forefront of the global climate action narrative. Mission LiFE nudges people to contribute cattle, food, and agricultural waste to biogas plants under the GOBARdhan scheme and use farming residues and animal waste for composting, manuring, and mulching.

Fifth, electronic or e-waste management also gained salience in the Mission LiFE. Repairing and using electronic devices over discarding the devices, discarding gadgets in the nearest e-recycling units, using rechargeable lithium cells, and preferring cloud storage over a pen drive or hard drive are available choices to influence people’s decisions about e-waste reduction.

Sixth, sustainable food systems adoption comes to the forefront of Mission LiFE. Inclusion of nutria-cereals like millets and oats in diets, composting food waste at home, creating a homestead garden for consuming fruits and vegetables, preparing organic manure from cow dungs and farm application, preferring locally available and seasonal foods, using smaller plates for daily meals to save food wastage are a few options underlying the choice architecture of sustainable food systems theme.

Seventh, healthy lifestyles are pro-planet protection and preservation. Biodiversity conservation and planting medicinal plants at the community level and household premises is critical, on the one hand, and consuming natural or organic products is necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle on the other.

Way forward

Mission LiFE has three phases to effectuate a fundamental shift in approach towards sustainability. The first phase is nudging individuals to practice simple yet effective environmental-friendly actions daily.

The second phase aims to bring changes in large-scale individual demand to nudge industries and markets to respond and customise supply and procurement per the derived demand.

The third phase changes policy actions by influencing the demand and supply dynamics for triggering shifts in large-scale industrial and government policies to nudge sustainable consumption and production.

Dey teaches at IIM Lucknow. Views expressed are personal