Governments and corporations often focus on supply-side solutions to the climate crisis — from creating longer-lasting electric vehicle batteries to decarbonizing aviation fuel. While these innovations are critical, addressing the climate crisis will depend on the collective impact of human behavior. For example, the energy sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions with households consuming almost a third of that energy. As a new Living Lab paper details, using behavioral insights to change people’s energy use habits is possible and urgent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that, while difficult, it is possible to dramatically change human behavior on a planetary scale. Applied behavioral research will be instrumental in shifting the planet toward sustainable living. This critical decade for major climate action offers a window of opportunity to change the way people live. People worldwide can live in a way that reduces emissions and increases equity so that the future is more sustainable and just. In partnership with civil society, industry and governments, the Living Lab for Equitable Climate Action will translate research into action. This project will design and support justice-centered behavioral policies and practices that enable people and the planet to thrive, together.

The initiative will identify and quantify the most impactful population-level behavior changes related to transport, energy and food choices in the project’s three pilot countries: Mexico, India and the United States. It will also provide high-level estimates of the climate and socioeconomic benefits of key behavioral changes.

The Living Lab is anchored in:

Behavioral Research to Inform Policy Design

Rather than a narrow focus on individual lifestyle changes, we work to design behavior-informed policy and structural reforms that drive population-level behavior change. For example, a communication campaign that aims to reduce food waste through increasing people’s desire to compost food relies on individual-level change. In contrast, a municipal composting program makes behavior change easier and accessible to everyone.

Equity and Social Justice

We consider climate impacts as well as social impacts like health, income and equity. For example, racist practices in the United States like racial profiling and ticketing, police violence and historical redlining policies cause various communities of color to face systemic transportation challenges. As a result, a text message campaign to improve the use of bike shares could be successful in reducing city emissions, but would fail to address specific challenges faced by communities of color like residential segregation or police profiling.


To maximize likelihood of success, we partner with a wide range of groups, including local and international academic and research institutions, government agencies, civil society groups and industry. Each of these groups influence behaviors, therefore they all must work together to enable large-scale behavioral change.

Participatory Design

We practice participatory research and behavioral design that centers and values local stakeholders. With these stakeholders, we explore behavioral challenges and co-design solutions. Diverse local partners ensure that the right questions are asked and that behavioral interventions are well suited to the unique contours of the local community.