Neighborhood “Choice Architecture”: A New Strategy for Lower-Emissions Urban Planning?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Neighborhood “Choice Architecture”: A New Strategy for Lower-Emissions Urban Planning?

  • Michael W. Mehaffy Centre for the Future of Places, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

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Abstract:  Recent advances in the field of behavioral economics offer intriguing insights into the ways that consumer decisions are influenced and may be influenced more deliberately to better meet community-wide and democratic goals. We demonstrate that these insights open a door to urban planners who may thereby develop strategies to alter urban-scale consumption behaviors that may significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per capita. We first hypothesize that it is possible, through feasible changes in neighborhood structure, to alter the “choice architecture” of neighborhoods in order to achieve meaningful GHG reductions. We then formulate a number of elements of “choice architecture” that may be applied as tools at the neighborhood scale. We examine several neighborhoods that demonstrate variations in these elements, and from known inventories, we generate a preliminary assessment of the possible magnitude of GHG reductions that may be available. Although we acknowledge many remaining challenges, we conclude that “neighborhood choice architecture” offers a promising new strategy meriting further research and development.

Keywords:  behavioral economics; choice architecture; climate change mitigation; greenhouse gas emissions; neighborhood planning



© Michael W. Mehaffy. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.