So how do we fix this? According to a recent Scientific American article, if we want men to make better decisions, we need to make going green feel manly.
The authors of the article were a group of researchers who conducted a series of experiments involving over 2,000 US and Chinese participants. According to their results, everyone seems to view certain green behaviors (like carrying a reusable shopping bag) as inherently more feminine.
Furthermore, when men were confronted with stereotypically feminine environmental messaging — like asking them to imagine using frilly pink gift cards to buy lamps, batteries, or backpacks — male participants apparently overreacted and pushed back by buying less environmentally-friendly options.
Men, it seemed, were effectively throwing the environmental baby out with the floral-scented bathwater.
But the authors say this can change. In further experiments, they revealed that re-enforcing traditionally masculine ideas could undo this effect. One experiment showed that men at a car dealership in China were more interested in purchasing a hybrid vehicle when ads for it included "manly" language. Another showed that men were more likely to donate money to the fictitious, uber-manly, howling-wolf-logo'd "Wilderness Rangers" non-profit, rather than one named "Friends of Nature."
"Make the man feel manly, and he’s more likely to go green," the article concludes.
The psychology of gender is, of course, very complicated, so there are no doubt more questions here that need to be answered, but if our goal is to help people go greener at the grocery store, ideas like this could be worth listening to.