UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Behavioural environmental economics team

The Behavioural Environmental Economics Team (BEET) is a group of staff and students who apply behavioural economics theories and techniques to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly behaviours and choices.

Mountain shrouded in cloud
In our research in the Behavioural Environmental Economics Team (BEET) we apply behavioural economics theories to energy and environment related issues, often using field and online experiments: this is a key aspect to take into account when looking at the globally sustainable use of natural resources.

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Research areas

BEET logo

The Behavioural Environmental Economics Team (BEET) applies behavioural economics to areas such as recycling, sustainable food consumption, individuals’ energy consumption, biodiversity. 

Sustainable food consumption

Food in a market stall
We look at the role of nudges and behavioural interventions on topics like product choices and food waste, focusing on labelling, social pressure, transparent nudges.  We have also looked at overconfidence and its negative role in terms of sustainable food consumption. A combination of field and online experiments has been used so far in this research area.


Emplty plastic bottles
We have applied behavioural economics theories to affect sorting behaviours and enhance recycling quality: with field experiments, most of the interventions have been applied on the bins directly, focusing on salience, social pressure and theories coming from neuroscience literature.


Clothing cooling strategies in offices

Old electric fan
With an online experiment, we have focused on offices in the financial sector, clothing choices and aircon usage. This research is very innovative as it tries to lower the energy consumption in work premises via changing clothing habits and codes. 

Behavioural economics and natural resources

Waterfall in a forest
In this area, we combine valuation methods with behavioural economics, looking at the willingness to pay for natural resources and use VS non-use values combined with visual and information nudges. We have run field and online experiments in this area. 

Research stories 

Image of UCL crecycling bin signs showing where food waste, clean recyclables and dirty and wet rubbish should go in the bins

Field experiments on recycling: a mix of research, external engagement and teaching

Our research on recycling has been the basis of several trials within UCL campus: the first intervention improved recycling quality by 60% and the new bin instructions incorporate some of our original suggestions. In the most recent experiment, we managed to reduce percentage errors by 64%, 95%, and 58%, respectively in mixed-recycling, non-recycling, and food waste bins. The work on the first experiment was mentioned and awarded in the 2022 UCL Sustainable UCL Awards Ceremony. This topic allows many students to work on their dissertations, and some of them where the basis of publications in top international journals. Our research on recycling was also important to support Westminster City Council in many projects with residents and employees.

Photo of someone looking at a food menu in a restaurant
Sustainable food consumption and nudges

We have undertaken several cutting-edge research projects on this topic in collaboration external organisations and companies. With our PhD student Arianna Buratto we supported online shops to nudge costumers towards more sustainable food choices and we worked with Westminster residents and employees as well as UCL staff on reducing households' food waste. We have recently worked with two restaurants on their menus, using salience, framing and transparent nudges: initial results show that applying the usual 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' labels reduces the consumption of sustainable dish options within a restaurant menu (this paper has been published in Ecological Economics). 

Behavioural environmental economics in teaching

Behavioural Environmental Economics activities are a mix of research, teaching and external engagement, connecting all the three spheres. We have our Behavioural Economics and Game Theory for the Environment module, and through this our MSc students competed in national challenges and participated to our research through dissertations and funded projects, while our PhD students got the relevant teaching experience needed for their future careers. We run experiments within our classes, and many of our MSc students pursued a career or a PhD in the field. We have also published papers coming from students’ dissertations.

'Behavioural Economics and Game Theory for the Environment' is a module available to students on Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment MSc students, and available to Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc too. The module is built on quantitative material within the economics field and we apply the theories to both the environment and energy sectors. Dissertations linked to this module are usually online or field experiments, looking at different topics: food, biodiversity, fashion, recycling, energy use are just some of the most recent topics looked by our students. Examples of past dissertation titles:

  • 'The effect of framing interventions on pro-environmental behaviours: an investigation into preferences for spent coffee ground recycling schemes'
  • 'The Effects of Distance on Willingness to Pay Values for Improving Nature and the Environment: An Incentivized Experiment Approach'
  • 'Investigating the role of altruism in motivating British consumers to eat sustainably, and whether this is impacted by humanistic and biospheric influences'
  • 'Nudges: the effect of a picture of human eyes to improve recycling sorting behaviour'

Doctoral research (PhD)

Our PhD students are active members of the Behavioural Environmental Economics team (BEET), both in research and teaching. Recent topics focused on sustainable food consumption (with experiments online, in restaurants and private homes) as well as office energy saving strategies related to clothing. 

  • Arianna Buratto: 'How can we encourage more sustainable food consumption choices?'
  • Yang Guanyu: 'The influence of social norms on personal cooling behaviours among financial office workers in Southern China.'


Lorenzo Lotti 
Associate Professor and Director of BEET

Lory Barile 
Associate Professor and Deputy Director of BEET, University of Warwick

Michelle Shipworth 
Associate Professor

Shanali Pethiyagoda 
PhD Student

Yang Guanyu 
PhD Student

Arianna Buratto 
PhD Student