I think humans are biologically wired to optimize movement, while using the least amount of energy possible. Look at us taking the car, standing still on the escalator, and taking the elevator instead of the stairs. If you are human…. Just admit that you are lazy too!

This little green hack is, like most of them, all about changing a habit: Taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Actually all it takes to start taking the stairs, is to change the outcome of a daily returning mini-decision. Of course you will need to trigger, motivate and encourage this change. And unfortunately, as easy as it sounds, I generally find the `behavioral change´ part of my little green hacks very, VERY hard.

I have to climb 3 floors to my appartment and 4 floors at work. Somehow I have started taking the elevator since I moved to Berlin. A while ago I was standing in the elevator, thinking about the energy usage of the movement and I started questioning why on earth I am not just taking the stairs. I decided to change it. Later I started investigating how much energy I saved. Elevators consume energy, but the environmental impact of you as an individual taking the stairs can be argued. Still, I sticked to my little change. It feels better. For me personally, it is all about the mindset. Why would we want to be moved all day by the elevator, and then after work go to the gym for sports, using electronic help in moving our lazy bodies around? Where is this world going?

In the beginning it was harder than I thought, I had to simply consciously DO it. It takes a bit of perseverance, I guess. I made a tiny cheer for myself every time I took the stairs (learn why I cheered for myself in this interesting Ted Talk from BJ Fogg). After about 10 conscious choices, I noticed that it seems to move to subconscious behaviours – now I don’t really think about it anymore. My new habit is that I take the stairs.

Just consciously DO it. Do it for about 10 times and it will become a new habit.

Maybe the most impactful place to change this habit would be at work, since this is a typical place where people take the elevator. Some employers for example place stickers on the floor, directing people to the stairs. Experiments have shown that the elevator usage will drastically decrease.

Many companies these days have a health program set up which could be a stronger motivation for a change. Some things that you can do or propose in your working environment:

  1. Make sure the stairwells are well lit, clean, and have proper handrails
  2. Post encouraging lines, arrows, or messages on the floor.
  3. Count the number of stairs it takes and make a quick and easy to remember rule of thumb for the number of calories burned for each floor (should be around 0.17 calories per step).
  4. At the entrance, make a score board where one can sign for taking the stairs, and relate an incentive to it.

Here is a great example from the office of GreenBuzz Founder Marco. Every time someone in the team takes the stairs, a point is added on the chart. This creates an immediate moment of cheering for yourself and makes the team results visible day by day.

Active Office

Are you greater than your laziness? Will you start taking the stairs?

Good luck trying it out and let me know how you’re doing!

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One thought on “Burn calories, not electricity

  • August 5, 2016 at 9:24 AM

    Love this one! I always take the stairs and I carry my bike up, even if there is an elevator. Extreme green hacking 🙂


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